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Smyth calls Democrat prison bill a threat to public safety

Posted: August 31, 2009 11:02 p.m.
Updated: September 1, 2009 12:00 p.m.
 
SACRAMENTO - Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, R-Santa Clarita, today voiced his strong opposition to legislation proposed by liberal Democrats that will endanger families throughout California. The Democrat plan paves the way for the early release of thousands of dangerous criminals into communities across the state before they have completed their sentences.

"The passage of this bill represents a complete failure on the part of Democrat legislators to serve their constituents," said Smyth. "The top priority of a government should be to maintain public safety, not to put its citizens at risk. Prison overcrowding is certainly an issue, but the solution should not be to just open the door and release inmates. The fact is we have fewer inmates in California today than we had ten years ago."

The bill approved today, Senate Bill 18xxx, attempts to save money in the state's Corrections budget by facilitating the release of thousands of so-called "non-violent" criminals from the state's prisons. But Smyth said that the Democrats' definition of a "non-violent" criminal was deeply flawed.

"Based on the definitions of violent and serious crimes, Democrats are prepared to release inmates who have been sent to prison for things like human trafficking, elder abuse, and a number of registerable felony sex offenses, and have not completed their sentences," said Smyth. "Letting these people back into our neighborhoods without law enforcement supervision makes California unsafe and creates a great threat to our community."

In his speech on the Assembly floor, Smyth argued that SB 18xxx was a dangerous and irresponsible threat to public safety that puts the rights of prisoners above the rights of law-abiding citizens. Instead of granting early release or summary parole, Smyth said that there are less dangerous ways to save money in our prisons, such as reducing bureaucracy and soaring inmate health care costs.

For example, health care costs have jumped 325 percent since 1997, even though there are fewer inmates today.

"We spend almost $50,000 per inmate per year, and nearly $17,000 per inmate on health care. That's the most of any state, and more than three times what the federal government spends. How can the proponents of this bill justify turning criminals loose in our communities as a cost-cutting measure when inmates are receiving better health care than most law-abiding citizens?"

SB 18xxx was passed 41-35 during today's Assembly floor session, with all 29 Republicans in strong opposition.

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