California prisons are overcrowded and use massive amounts of taxpayer dollars. In fact, as a state, we spend almost 10% of our general fund on prisons. Locking away all offenders and throwing away the key is not always the best way to keep our communities safe. Focusing on rehabilitation of nonviolent offenders can reduce prisoner reentry, and allow those who have served their time to reintegrate into their communities safely and productively.
Governor Brown took a step in the right direction this year when he introduced The Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016. The goals of the act are to invest in public safety, save taxpayer dollars, focus on rehabilitation, and keep dangerous offenders in prison.
In March, UDW members began gathering petition signatures to ensure The Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016 made it to the November ballot where Californians would be able to decide whether or not to adopt it.
UDW caregiver Mercedes Chapman from San Diego decided to help collect signatures because of the impact the act would have on the children in her community.
“It makes me think about my 16-year-old brother,” she said. “I shudder at the thought of someone younger than him being tried as an adult and being placed in a prison with adults. I’d rather give them a chance at rehabilitation to stop a potentially destructive cycle.”
The act would mandate that judges rather than prosecutors decide whether children are tried as adults, and would require the judge to take a careful look at the child’s alleged crime and life before deciding whether they should be charged as an adult.
The Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016 is aimed at keeping the communities where caregivers and our loved ones live and work safer. “It’s a very important issue,” explained Mercedes. “We’re talking about our communities. It’s our kids and our families that will be affected.”