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Editorial: No on Prop 36

Published: September 14, 2012

ONE OF the most frustrating phenomena in California politics is the constant thwarting of the public’s will by tiny special interest groups. And nowhere is this more apparent than in the people’s constant attempts to impose strict punishments on the worst criminals, only to have groups like the ACLU and left-wing judges undermine those efforts.

The most egregious example is the death penalty, which the people want imposed on the worst murderers and which would be much more effective as a deterrent (and save many more lives) if it were imposed within a few years of the crimes, but is constantly being delayed, overturned and halted because of bizarre objections, such as the silly idea that a murderer has a constitutional right to a pain-free death when he is executed.

Another terrible example of the people’s will being thwarted is the regular introduction of laws and ballot measures to water down the effect of the state’s Three Strikes law, which enjoys vast public support and has undoubtedly reduced crime, but which is seen as cruel by people who, for inexplicable reasons, are more concerned about the rights of convicted criminals than of crime victims.

The original Three Strikes ballot initiative was passed, of course, with tremendous public support, and a ballot measure to reduce its effectiveness was soundly defeated by voters in 2004.

Nevertheless, this year we once again have Prop 36, which would not only make things easier for criminals in the future, it would let lots of people off the hook for the life sentences they’re already serving. How would Prop 36 do this?

- It would revise the existing Three Strikes law to impose a life sentence only when the new felony conviction is “serious or violent.”

- And it would allow judges to reduce the sentences of offenders serving life-without-parole if their third strike conviction was not serious or violent, and if the judges determine that the re-sentencings would not pose “unreasonable risk to public safety.”

Prop 36 is the creation of and has received most of its financial backing from Stanford law professor David Mills. The ultra-left-wing financier, George Soros, has contributed $500,000 to the Prop 36 campaign. Other significant backers include San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon, the NAACP and the California Democratic Party.

Opponents include Mike Reynolds — the author of the original Three Strikes law — the president of the California Sheriff’s Association, the president of the California District Attorneys Association, and many other law enforcement officers and groups.

But most important is what the public wants, and (as they have expressed over and over again) their paramount concern is to be protected from criminals.

It’s time special interest groups quit standing in the way.