This is an archive of a past election.
See for current information.
California State Government October 7, 2003 Election
Smart Voter

Saving $1 Billion a Year by Fixing the Criminal Justice System

By Audie Bock

Candidate for Recall of Gray Davis; State of California

This information is provided by the candidate
Reordering our priorities away from prisons and toward schools will restore a better California. Amending "Three Strikes" and placing a moratorium on the Death Penalty are an important part of this turnaround.
California's criminal justice system has become a prison industry in which thousands of light offenders are shut up behind bars for life-destroying decades at enormous cost to the taxpayer, while murderers, rapists and child-molesters run free. While education has been called a "first, second and third priority," and been tinkered and toyed with, California has only raised education spending to about $7,000 per student per year. This may sound like a lot, if it is assessed as a rate of tuition, but it is not all spent on classroom costs like teacher salaries and textbooks. It is well worth comparing to prison spending.

The current administration, despite a decrease in incarceration rates over the last several years, has insisted on building the Delano II Prison to house a whole city of inmates at a construction cost of $595,000,000. Each of the 5,000 people who will populate Delano II will cost the state a minimum of $25,000 per year to maintain, like all the other largely minority inmates in our system. As inmates age and fall ill with AIDS, Hepatitis C, tuberculosis, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and other debilitating ailments, their maintenance cost rises to $45,000 per inmate per year, and up.

The numbers tell the story of some of the misplaced priorities in the Davis-Bustamante administration. When I served in the State Legislature, I opposed the building of the Delano Prison.

I have also been and remain an advocate of amending California's "Three Strikes" law. Back in 1994 when Polly Klaas's family were persuaded to support this measure to stop people like Polly's killer, Richard Allen Davis, from being set free over and over again after repeat crimes, they and all the rest of us thought it was to get violent felons off the streets. But the way it has been used has created imbalance and injustice in the system.

Under the draconian complexities of "Three Strikes," even a second offense that is non-violent can put a person behind bars for decades. The most egregious cases are known to everyone: the fellow who stole a few bottles of shampoo, and another who stole some videotape, both put in prison for the mandatory sentence of 25 years to life. No "Three Strikes" offender is eligible for parole in less than 20 years. Many who have been incarcerated under this measure were convicted on drug charges as light as marijuana possession. Over 30,000 people are in maximum-security institutions for property and non-violent offenses under California's "Three Strikes" law.

Since "Three Strikes" went into effect we have built 21 prisons and only one university. This year the Merced University of California campus construction has been put off for two more years, but prison guards have been given a raise, and Delano II Prison construction proceeds despite large demonstrations against it.

I want to see the violent criminals behind bars, not the shampoo thieves. Fixing "Three Strikes" to conform better to the violent and serious categories required in every other state that has a "Three Strikes" type of law will help us reduce incarceration costs to the taxpayers, and ensure that our police and other law enforcement agencies can round up the violent criminals who are the real threats to our safety. Organizations like Citizens Against Violent Crime (CAVC) and Families to Amend California Three Strikes (FACTS) have shown that we would save about $750,000,000 per year in incarceration costs by fixing "Three Strikes."

My commitment to stopping violent criminals extends to other areas as well. In the Legislature I authored two measures to help crime victims obtain restitution for the harm they have suffered, through the California Victims' Restitution Fund. Now crime victims can apply for further compensation and counseling if they are called upon to testify a second or third time against a violent criminal, and law enforcement officials can provide crime victims with on-the-spot information about how to obtain restitution. California must keep the Victims' Restitution Fund intact and available to those who deserve it and ensure that perpetrators pay what the courts require.

One of California's most controversial issues is the use of the Death Penalty. I believe California needs a moratorium on capital punishment. I have worked with Death Penalty Focus and my local MGO Democratic Club to get moratorium resolutions passed at municipal and county level throughout California.

As soon as the Davis-Bustamante administration came to power, the executions, which had been held in abeyance under Governor Pete Wilson and Governor George Deukmajian, resumed with a vengeance. The first death-row inmate executed in January 1999, after 18 years of incarceration, was a citizen of Thailand, a Buddhist country without a death penalty. While he had been in prison, one of the people who had helped commit the robbery in which the shop-owner was killed confessed to having been the actual trigger man. The killer was back in Thailand, where he would not be prosecuted. But Jay Siriphongs was refused both extradition and clemency by Gray Davis.

When I confronted Gray Davis, the first time I met him, about the fact that even Ronald Reagan had exercised clemency as Governor of California, Davis launched into his old "tough on crime" speech. He clearly had no concern for Jay Siriphongs, or later for Manny Babbitt, or even for women whose parole was recommended to him by his own Parole Board. The administration's concern has been for the Prison Guards' Union, the largest organized labor donor to Gray Davis's campaigns, some two million dollars in the 2002 election. It is not surprising, then, that the only state workers who have received a salary raise in this time of a $38 billion deficit are the prison guards.

The former Governor of Illinois, Republican George Ryan, led the way with a moratorium on the death penalty when he learned how badly many inmates had been defended. The discovery of numerous wrong convictions led him rightfully to put a temporary stop to the death penalty, but at the end of his term he went too far and simply pardoned everyone.

A moratorium on capital punishment so that the courts, the scientists and the people can assess how it has been implemented is one thing, but turning rightfully convicted murderers out onto the streets is another. California will save millions of dollars annually with a moratorium on capital punishment, because the death penalty's costs are driven up far beyond the costs of other sentences due to the mandatory appeals process. We all agree that anyone who is wrongly convicted should have a right to exoneration.

But I differ with organizations like Death Penalty Focus, which not only oppose capital punishment, but also oppose Life Without Parole (LWOP). They are attempting to conform with standards of countries like Mexico, where there is no longer any capital punishment, but since October 2001 there is also mandatory parole even for murderers. I believe that murderers who are rightfully convicted should not automatically be eligible for parole.

We need to take a strong stand on capital punishment as well as on the price to be paid for violent crimes. Murderers and perpetrators of other heinous crimes--some 246 recorded by the Los Angeles District Attorney's office alone--are escaping across the border into Mexico, which refuses to extradite them because they will face capital punishment in California. In Mexico they remain free and unprosecuted, or if apprehended and tried there can face sentences as light three to eight years, reduced to "some weekends" on appeal. These people are then free to return to the U.S., where they can no longer be touched by the law.

I believe we need to put these murderers behind bars, and we need to negotiate with Mexico to help us do it. If we can get violent 1970's revolutionaries back from South Africa to stand trial, we must be able to get recent rapists, child molesters and murderers back from Mexico. I propose to negotiate directly with the President of Mexico and the Governors of our border Mexican states to resolve this painful dilemma and carry out prosecution here against those who have committed heinous crimes on California soil. We cannot adopt the lenient standards Mexico has put in place, but we must have international cooperation to carry out the justice deserved by crime victims here.

My positions on criminal justice support to the fullest the efforts of our law enforcement professionals. My purpose is to be tough on crime. I want to see all criminals apprehended and prosecuted. But I want justice carried out rationally and cost effectively. I want the punishment to fit the crime, and I want those who have strayed only a little to have the opportunity to redeem themselves, to get sober, to get a job, and not to be locked up for life. And I see no necessity to execute anyone.

Please let me know your thoughts on this position paper by emailing me at: Bockis

Candidate Page || Feedback to Candidate || This Contest
October 2003 Home (Ballot Lookup) || About Smart Voter

ca/state Created from information supplied by the candidate: October 3, 2003 21:18
Smart Voter <>
Copyright © League of Women Voters of California Education Fund.
The League of Women Voters neither supports nor opposes candidates for public office or political parties.