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LAist Guide to the Elections: Proposition 6

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What is Proposition 6? Prop 6, also known as the Runner Initiative or the Safe Neighborhoods Act, is a move to increase funding for police and prisons and toughen penalties on "gang-related" and drug crime . It has been introduced by George Runner (Republican state senator) and his wife Sharon Runner (Republican state assemblywoman).

The proposition would deem any youth 14 years or older who is convicted of a gang-related felony fit to be tried in an adult court. It would mandate annual criminal background checks of any recipients of public housing subsidies. Prop 6 would also fundamentally change evidence rules to allow the use of some "hearsay" statements as evidence when witnesses are not available. It would increase penalties for gang-related crimes, using or selling methamphetamines, and would eliminate bail for those convicted who are undocumented. The funding for these tough on crime measures would come from money reallocated from K-12 education, higher education, health and human services, transportation and housing, and environmental protection.

What do opponents think? Opponents feel strongly that this measure would cost taxpayers immense amounts of money, build more prisons, imprison many more people, and continue an unsuccessful war on crime. They are wary of the proposition's potential to create new life sentences. Prop 6 could sentence more youth to long stays in prison without focusing on the methods that truly work to reduce crime. The measure would spend millions on building more prisons and take money directly out of vital social services (opponents refer to the nonpartisan state Legislative Analyst's office report (pdf), revealing more than $500 million in new prison expenditures, and more than $500 in other costs each year, increasing yearly), funds that would come directly from existing education and social service programs in California. And individuals who are not affiliated with gangs could end up in gang databases and be falsely prosecuted. Lastly, introducing hearsay statements into evidence would have negative ramifications for justice in California.

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The Labor/Community Strategy Center recently produced a video opposing Prop 6...

On the pro side, the Center for Government Studies interviewed a proponent of Prop 6. Here's the interview with Sacramento Sherriff John McGinness, President of the California Peace Officers Association:

As a side note -- this quote from the interview is frightening -- "It uses GPS to effectively control the behavior of people who have given somehow through their behavior an indication that they are at risk of becoming, frankly, a problem to society through gang activity." This move may appeal to tough-on-crime proponents but sounds eerily like the Department of Pre-Crime (from the movie Minority Report).

How does Prop 6 relate to other props on the ballot this year? Opponents of Proposition 6 also strongly oppose Proposition 9, which would amend the state's constitution to give crime victims a huge influence in criminal cases. Prop 9 could also worsen prison overcrowding by reducing or cutting out rehabilitation programs and early-release programs. On the ballot this year is also Proposition 5, which some say is essentially the opposite of Prop 6, providing treatment and rehabilitation and reducing the prison overcrowding in California (Prop 5 was written about previously on LAist).

Who supports Prop 6? Prop 6's largest one-time donation ($1 million) came from billionaire Henry T Nicholas III (who was recently indicted on drug and conspiracy charges for allegedly maintaining properties for cocaine and methamphetamine distribution). The prop is also supported by Mike Reynolds (father of the 3 strikes law in California), the California State Sherriffs' Association, and the California District Attorneys Association, among others.

Who opposes Prop 6? Opponents include the California Democratic Party, the California Teachers Association, the Los Angeles City Council, the League of Women Voters, the California Professional Firefighters, and the California Labor Federation. Several notable newspapers have opposed the proposition, and the New York Times has also weighed in against it, noting "It recreates the failed criminal justice policies of the past."

For more information:

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Yes on Prop 6.

No on Prop 6.

No on the Six -- a site sponsored by the Labor/Community Strategy Center, focusing on six propositions they deem as attacks on working people, people of color, and serve to expand the current prison state.
California Voter Guide for Prop 6.

Photo above by bokim via Flickr