The Bakersfield Californian: Soft-on-crime measures put California families at risk

By Senate Republican Leader Shannon Grove

Published in the Bakersfield Californian on September 27, 2020

Doesn’t it seem as if the phrase “public safety” is a joke these days? I’m not talking about the performance of law enforcement; they are doing their jobs as best they can in the face of many hurdles. I support them and thank God that they’re there every single day.

No, I’m talking about the one-party rule that has dominated Sacramento for the last decade. Among the many negatives of one-party rule is that it has emboldened soft-on-crime liberals and led to a series of misguided criminal justice “reforms” being forced on Californians, reforms like Assembly Bill 109 and propositions 47 and 57 and so much more.

Those three measures among other things shifted incarceration and supervision of many lower-level felons from prisons to community jails, recategorized a multitude of drug and property crimes from felonies to misdemeanors, and provided for the early release from prison of many dangerous criminals, including sex offenders. All of them have resulted in more criminals being let free to roam our local streets.

It’s also the safety of one-party rule that led Governor Newsom to feel comfortable enough to use the COVID-19 pandemic as a guise to provide early release to yet another 18,000 felons from March to August of this past year.

No doubt COVID-19 is a problem in prisons; it’s a problem in nursing homes, too, and other institutionalized facilities. But there are solutions that don’t include the mass release of prisoners who have not finished their rehabilitation period, who have not served the justice sentenced to them for the crimes they committed, and who are now wandering the streets without shelter from the coronavirus, the very reason they were released in the first place.

Then there’s the fact that the governor said he would be releasing low-level, non-violent prisoners only. It’s just not true. AB 109 and propositions 47 and 57 largely emptied the prisons of those offenders over the last few years, so the pool for Gov. Newsom to choose from was much worse.

In fact, one inmate the governor has released is Terebea Williams, serving an 84-years-to-life sentence for killing Kevin “John” Ruska in 2001. Another is Santiago Cruz, serving a 125-years-to life sentence for arson, repeated acts of harassment and stalking and making threats to his ex-wife’s new boyfriend to rape his daughter in front of him and then murder them both. Are those the governor’s idea of non-violent criminals?

Another overreach enabled by one-party rule was the state’s judicial council instituting a “zero-bail” policy to keep jail populations lower. Thankfully, the judicial council realized the zero bail policy was a mistake and canceled it in June, but only because of the outcry from law enforcement and the public over a wave of suspects committing crimes, getting arrested and released, and then committing additional crimes in the very same day. In just one example, from Glendora, police arrested a man for stealing cars and other property three times in one day, but had to let him go each time thanks to the states outrageous zero bail policy.

Like most of us, my Senate Republican colleagues and I are not opposed to wise reforms, ones made to better our criminal justice system. We support legislation to update training standards and discontinue the carotid hold. We support reforms that won’t jeopardize public safety and leave our communities and families at risk.

We will not support the current calls to defund law enforcement. The killing of George Floyd was unacceptable, and the officers involved are being prosecuted. His family, his loved ones, his community — all deserve justice. But justice is not defunding, dismantling, abolishing police departments, or attacking and ambushing police like in Los Angeles or Louisville; that is unacceptable.

I consistently have and will continue to oppose measures allowing for the release of felons into our community before they have finished serving their sentence, and we do not support efforts to undermine the safety of communities by overburdening local probation systems.

When it comes to public safety, these liberal-led measures are weakening the criminal justice system in favor of the criminals and at the expense of crime victims. All these liberal, soft-on-crime “reforms” are doing is making California less safe. Well, less safe for you, me, and law-abiding Californians. Sadly, it’s definitely more safe for the criminals.