Stealth Initiative Threatens California Youth, Immigrants

New America Media, Commentary//Video, Kevin Weston//Video: Paul Billingsley and Charles Jones Posted: Aug 21, 2008

Editor's Note: Silent but deadly, Prop. 6 is the ballot measure that no one has heard of, but that could have catastrophic effects on young people in California, writes Kevin Weston.

SAN FRANCISCO -- With Proposition 6 on the California ballot this November, young people in the Golden State have a reason to vote that trumps putting the first non-white man in the White House.

The Runner Initiative – or the “Safe Neighborhood Act” – is the single worst thing that could happen to California youth since the passage of Proposition 21 allowed 16 year-olds to be tried as adults. Prop. 6 does Prop. 21 one better – it would allow 14-year-old “gang members” to be tried as adults.

Video: Christina Gomez of the Burns Institiute/The Community Justice Network for Youth (CJNY) on Prop. 6 and it's potential effects on California's young people.

This “son of Three Strikes” (Prop. 184) – Prop. 6 was written by Three Strikes author Mike Reynolds -- is like the Stealth Bomber of laws, cruising at the speed of sound past California voters with a payload of nukes aimed at youth and undocumented immigrants. I sat in a roomful of journalists last week and not one had heard of it. This speaks to the lack of beat reporters in California as the newspaper industry implodes. Hundreds of journalists have been laid off or bought out, leaving the public ill-informed about this impending legislative hurricane.

One of Prop. 6’s most troublesome aspects is the gang enhancement stipulation that would add time and other penalties to those identified as gang members.

California’s gang database CAL/GANG, the largest statewide gang database in the country, lists more than 100,000 names. The data is so untrustworthy that former California Attorney General Bill Lockyer refused to forward them to federal authorities. He told the San Francsico Chronicle: “This database cannot and should not be used, in California or elsewhere, to decide whether or not a person is dangerous or should be detained.”

Young people who have been unfairly labeled as gang members would now face the harshest of penalties through a system that is already broken and flawed.

The proposition would prohibit undocumented immigrants charged with certain offenses from being released on bail or on their own recognizance, pending trial. Already under tremendous social pressure from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, state and local governments, this is just one more nail in the coffin of immigrant rights in California.

It would create temporary prisons in counties that are currently experiencing overcrowding. Imagine tent prisons housing the overflow of inmates that the Proposition would create. The California prison system is already under fire over everything from inadequate health care to overcrowding caused by mandatory minimum sentences.

Funding priorities would be switched from mental health, drug treatment and community programs. All monies would have to pass through county probation departments before reaching mental health and drug treatment programs. Prop 6 stipulates that the funding “shall be distributed…to assist counties for the expense of housing juvenile offenders.”

The implication here is that money for anything other than housing would be in jeopardy. Rehabilitation programs could be wiped out.

Prop. 6 significantly increases expenditures for criminal justice programs, including net program costs likely to exceed $1 billion, and is estimated to cost an additional $500 million a year after that. This new spending comes during a period in which the state of California is facing a budget crisis of historic proportions, prompting Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to ask for steep cuts the Democratic controlled state legislature is refusing to pass. Services like child care centers and nursing homes are feeling the crunch during the impasse.

The state is already on the hook for billions going to prison health care and new education mandates that will require students to pass algebra by the eighth grade.

California simply can’t afford to take money from the general fund – mainly education – to pay for this ill-conceived initiative.

Adding insult to injury, the law would require local governments to conduct annual criminal background checks on recipients of federal housing subsidies. Everyone in the house must be background-checked and if anyone is found guilty of a drug crime or a violent crime, the whole family would be evicted.

Prop. 6 would also significantly increase (to life in prison) the penalty for home invasion robbery, carjacking, carrying firearms and extortion.

Ironically, the billionaire who financed the initiative, Henry Nicholas III, was indicted this summer on numerous felony charges including charges of supplying prostitutes to big-ticket customers, drug use and trafficking, conspiracy, security fraud and making death threats. People like Nichols are hardly in a position to pass judgment on the immigrants and young people of California.

While gangs and violence are a major concern to voters, laws like Prop. 6 don’t work. An editorial in the New York Times states, “Criminologists warn that juvenile offenders who are thrown in with adult prisoners are exposed to social pressures and develop personal contacts that make it far more likely that they will become career criminals than those held in juvenile facilities.”

While Prop. 8 – the Gay Marriage Initiative – gets all the headlines, Prop. 6 is sneaking under the radar of the media, politicians and the immigrants and young people it targets. Obama holds a double-digit lead in California over John McCain. Youth who were energized to vote for change through Obama now have a better reason to go to the polls this fall: voting against Prop. 6.

Kevin Weston, director of new media and youth communications for New America Media is the publisher of YO! Youth Outlook Multimedia. Paul Billingsley and Charles Jones are content producers at New America Media.

Related Articles:

Ganged Up: Joshua Herrera May Face Life Due to Enhancement Law

Gang Injunctions Take Root in San Francisco

The Spook who Sat by the White House Door



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User Comments


kgomez on Sep 16, 2008 at 14:54:22 said:

I think it is important for all of you who are reading this to know a few things about crime in california-
First, I ask you to be intelligent about this- if you are skeptical about media it is for a reason. Not everyone is trying to be as responsible about their reporting as NAM. Calfornia has spent over $57 million in gang suppression tactics in the past 7 years but keeps no data, which means not only can we not say that we know for certain that gang activity is decreasing but we can't say for sure that it is increasing, however, this is the one law enforcement effort that continously gets funded. How can a program that over the past 7 years has not been evaluated for their effectiveness keep getting funded? Becuase of people like you- who buy into the media hype that gang violence and violence in general is up. Prop 6 is not talking about just anyone-we are talking about youth here- according to a report provided by the Nat'l Council on Crime and Delinqency crime has been on the decline for more than 10 years. Gang violence or activity is not up- but gang violence and activity is all that the media is willing to cover, becuase it is all the public wants to hear about. Does the common man believe that reporting on crime, must be the evidence of someone caring enough to do something to solve it? Please wake up people, the media is only reporting on things you care to hear about. If you start writing in and asking for them to cover more stories about youth doing good things and being viable members in their community, not only would you not have to go far to read a story but you'd see alot more of it in main stream media. You get what you ask for. STABLE communities are safe communities. Communities that are fully resourced with adequate housing, employment for all, equitable education and well funded park and rec facilities are what we need to focus out attention on not old political tactics that have not been evaluated. Prop 6 is not only going to deplete our already dwindling state budget, but it is not the answer to creating a safer community.
If gangs were running as rampant as your little heads believed they were, they'd be in every community across the US, but I've never heard of the Pacific Heights gang or the Beverly Hill mob. Please people use common sense.


Vivian on Sep 16, 2008 at 07:55:43 said:

I'm afraid my sympathy is with the
victims of gang crime.
California has been a sancuary for criminals
for way too long.


Kgomez on Sep 10, 2008 at 08:23:10 said:

Well r. zuckerman, you are absolutely right. wild boys, such as Henry T. Nicholas, who was the major contributor of Prop 6, was recently charged with numerous counts of drugging guest and other charges should be put away. However, this is targeted at communities of color, not that folks who have the power to commit crimesa and more than likely get away with it,


DOUGLAS FIELD on Sep 06, 2008 at 13:51:24 said:

SENATOR OBAMA,PLEASE GIVE AMERICA A GOOD HONEST DOSE OF REALITY CONCERNING THIS US HORROR ???

LETS ALL HOPE OUR MEDIA FRIENDS CONTINUE TO ALSO SHOW AN INTEREST IN REPORTING ON THIS AMERICAN HORROR FACING THESE (TENS OF THOUSANDS) FORGOTTEN AND TRAPPED POORER AMERICANS, AND HOW THIS PRESIDENTIAL CONTENDER HANDLES THIS VERY SERIOUS ISSUE FACING AMERICA?S LATINO AND BLACK AMERICAN COMMUNITIES ????


WITH 80% OF THE BLACK AMERICAN VOTERS SAYING THEY SUPPORT SENATOR OBAMA IN THIS PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION, IT IS ONLY FAIR FOR EVERYONE TO KNOW PRIOR BEING ELECTED OUR NEXT PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES HOW THIS DEMOCRATIC SENATOR TRULY FEELS ABOUT THIS AMERICAN JUDICIAL HORROR CONTINUING TO INFLICT GRAVE HARM ON THE BLACK AMERICAN FAMILIES AND THEIR COMMUNITIES NATIONWIDE ??????

*** WHEN GOD?S FACE BECAME VERY RED ***
THE US SUPREME COURT GAVE ENEMY COMBATANTS FEDERAL APPEAL HC RIGHTS LAWYERS AND PROPER ACCESS TO US FEDERAL COURTS,AND POORER AMERICANS (MANY EVEN ON DEATH ROW) ARE DENIED PROPER FEDERAL APPEAL LEGAL REPRESENTATION TO OUR US FEDERAL COURTS OF APPEAL, AND ROTTING IN AMERICAN PRISONS NATIONWIDE ?????????


***THE AMERICAN PEOPLE ARE $LOWLY FINDING OUT HOW EA$Y IT I$ FOR MIDDLE CLA$$ AND WORKING POOR AMERICAN$ TO FALL VICTIM TO OUR U$ MONETARY JUDICIAL $Y$TEM.

****WHEN THE US INNOCENT WERE ABANDONED BY THE GUILTY ****
The prison experts have reported that there are 100,000 innocent Americans currently being falsely imprisoned along with the 2,300,000 total US prison population nationwide.
Since our US Congress has never afforded poor prison inmates federal appeal legal counsel for their federal retrials,they have effectively closed the doors on these tens of thousands of innocent citizens ever being capable of possibly exonerating themselves to regain their freedom through being granted new retrials.

This same exact unjust situation was happening in our Southern States when poor and mostly uneducated Black Americans were being falsely imprisoned for endless decades without the needed educational skills to properly submit their own written federal trial appeals.

**INNOCENT AMERICANS ARE DENIED REAL HC RIGHTS WITH THEIR FEDERAL APPEALS !!
This devious and deceptive judicial process of making our poor and innocent prison inmates formulate and write their own federal appeal legal cases for possible retrials on their state criminal cases,is still in effect today even though everyone in our US judicial system knows that without proper legal representation, these tens of thousands of innocent prison inmates will be denied their rightful opportunities of ever being granted new trials from our federal appeal judges!!

Sadly, the true US *legal* Federal Appeal situation that occurs when any of our uneducated American prison inmates are forced to attempt to submit their own written Federal Appeals (from our prisons nationwide) without the assistance of proper legal counsel, is that they all are in reality being denied their legitimate rights for Habeas Corpus and will win any future Supreme Court Case concerning this injustice!

For our judicial system and our US Congressional Leaders Of The Free World to continue to pretend that this is a real and fair opportunity for our American Middle Class and Working Poor Citizens, only delays the very needed future change of Federal Financing of all these Federal appeals becoming a normal formula of Our American judicial system.

It was not so very long ago that Public Defenders became a Reality in this country.Prior that legal reality taking place, their were also some who thought giving anyone charged with a crime a free lawyer was a waste of taxpayers $$.

This FACADE and HORROR of our Federal Appeal proce$$ is not worthy of the Greatest Country In The World!

***GREAT SOCIETIES THAT DO NOT PROTECT EVEN THEIR INNOCENT, BECOME THE GUILTY!


A MUST READ ABOUT AMERICAN INJUSTICE:
1) YAHOO AND 2) GOOGLE
MANNY GONZALES THE KID THAT EVERYONE FORGOT IN THE CA PRISON SYSTEM.
** A JUDICIAL RIDE OF ONES LIFE !

lawyersforpooramericans@yahoo.com
(424-247-2013)


Teri S on Aug 23, 2008 at 02:23:19 said:

J Cir, I can't believe you want to spend even MORE money on putting people into prison when we can't afford the ones who are already there. When are you going to learn that laws like this don't work the way you think they'll work and they end up costing far more than you think they will?


Mz. L on Aug 22, 2008 at 13:56:17 said:

Thank you for bringing this important, yet little known Prop to light. Good to know we can count on you to report on issues flying under the radar!
Thank you!


J Cir on Aug 21, 2008 at 22:29:11 said:

Another sob story about the dregs of American society, many of whom shouldn't even be in this country to begin with. Oh, let's have pity on the teenage illegal immigrant thug. So he committed a minor transgression like carjacking, home invasion robbery, or carrying a firearm. Shame on Californian's who think scum like this should serve time (before being deported). Maybe funds for other wasteful programs and institutions (public education anyone?) wouldn't need to be of such magnitude if Californian's weren't on the hook for educating (or at least trying), providing health care, and incarcerating millions of illegal immigrants and their children.

This story is a waste of time. Californian's, who are sick and tired of illegal immigrants gobbling up much needed services and tax money that rightly belongs to the US CITIZENS living in California, will vote overwhelmingly in favor of this much needed proposition.


Richard Zuckerman on Aug 21, 2008 at 19:17:24 said:

This good legislation would punish those incorrigible wild boys what they rightfully deserve!! Incapacitation as a means of addressing the crime problem!

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