In May 2016, Johnny Lee Guyton was found guilty of human trafficking.
One piece of evidence was a video of him verbally abusing and berating one of his victims as he forced her to walk the streets soliciting sex. The video is heartbreaking and demonstrated Guyton’s special kind of brutality.
It was shocking to many to find out that because of Proposition 57, Guyton’s crimes were not classified as violent crimes. This entitles him to serve only a portion of his sentence and qualify for early release.
In California, the electorate’s decision to pass Proposition 57 to ease prison overcrowding has led to some significant unexpected consequences, according to victim advocates. The clear definition of what constitutes a violent offense has been debated ever since.
Currently, the law only allows for 23 offenses to be classified as violent.
Do a drive by shooting but don’t hit anyone. Not violent.
Drug a woman and rape her. Not violent.
Solicit someone to commit murder. Not violent.
The list goes on and on.
Frustrated with what they believe are serious shortcomings in the current law, an effort by a coalition of groups consisting of prosecutors, victim advocates, and police officers attempts to shore up the existing law to redefine “violent crime”.
The Keep California Safe coalition is gathering signatures in hopes of qualifying for a ballot measure that would fix the issues related to definitions of violent crime and attempts to keep bad guys from getting out of jail.
Besides expanding the definition of violent crime, their measure would expand DNA collection and allow parole boards to take into consideration a prisoners’ entire criminal history, not just their most recent offense.
The coalition also intends to fix the problem with serial theft suspects. Currently, if a person steals items worth less than $950 and gets caught, they get a citation. Those who keep stealing over and over again can be charged with a felony.
I still find it hard to believe that the guy stealing packages off my porch only gets a ticket, considering that the sanctity of my home has been violated.
It is an uphill battle, that’s for sure. Critics believe law enforcement and prosecutors are overreacting. I say proximity impacts perspective. They are definitely closer to these problems because they see this every day.
Propositions need millions of dollars to get on the ballot. Proposition 57 advocates spent more than $18 million getting the proposition passed. That paid for an army of petition gatherers, commercials, and advertisements.
The amount raised so far for the Keep California Safe initiative is a pittance.
The coalition’s idea is not to completely do away with Proposition 57, but instead to make sure that dangerous people and serial offenders aren’t released before their time.
Trying to keep people like Guyton off the streets for as long as possible is a good idea. It’s just a matter of whether people feel strongly enough about these issues to make it happen.
Joe is a retired captain. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.