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May 2012
AB 109 delivers an insult to justice
LAPPL Board of Directors

AB 109, the state’s new prison realignment law, will go down as one of the worst pieces of legislation ever enacted in California. As the list of its failures continues to grow, the only possible explanation is that either the bill’s supporters actually believe serious crimes should go unpunished, or that they are seriously incapable of crafting laws that protect the public.

The headlines behind this misguided “reform” of the criminal justice system trumpeted its dual aims of reducing the prison population and helping save the state millions of dollars. It’s now estimated that $5.9 billion in responsibilities was shifted to local counties. Californians were assured that criminals sentenced to imprisonment would still be held accountable in local custody. But this legislation’s disastrous consequences continue to add up.

Realignment’s latest outrage comes from Merced, California, where a public safety officer was killed by a DUI driver. Because of AB 109, that driver will not spend a single day behind bars.

On June 9, 2011, Amie Chick was driving with a blood alcohol level over .07, marijuana in her system and possibly while talking on a cell phone. At that same moment, 29-year-old Los Banos firefighter Andrew Maloney was riding his 2011 Suzuki motorcycle southbound on Highway 165 in Merced County when Amie Chick turned left in front of Maloney, killing him in the resulting crash.

Chick later pleaded guilty to one count of felony vehicular manslaughter and was to begin serving her sentence of a year in jail on April 23. Under AB 109’s terms, however, she was immediately eligible for a house-arrest program because she was classified as a low-level prison inmate sentenced for a non-serious, non-violent crime. This allows her to serve her sentence at home while wearing an electronic monitoring device.

This is only one of the many tragic cases now unfolding that demonstrate how in their haste to remake punishment in California, the legislature in fact gutted punishment as a consequence of crime. Will AB 109’s proponents tell Andrew Maloney’s family their intention was that his death not be punished, or that the complete lack of punishment for his killing was simply an oversight—a case of legislative incompetence?

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