05-20-2018  6:35 pm      •     
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NEWS BRIEFS

Raina Croff to Speak at Architectural Heritage Center

'When the Landmarks are Gone: Older African Americans, Place, and Change in N/NE Portland’ describes SHARP Walking Program ...

Portland Playhouse Presents August Wilson’s ‘Fences’ Through June 10

May 20 performance will include discussion on mental health; June 10 performance will be followed by discussion of fatherhood ...

Peggy Houston-Shivers Presents Benefit Concert for Allen Temple CME

Concert to take place May 20 at Maranatha Church ...

Family Friendly Talent Show, May 18

Family Fun Night series continues at Matt Dishman Community Center ...

The Latest: Cougar that attacked cyclists was underweight

SEATTLE (AP) — The Latest on a cougar attack that killed one mountain biker and wounded another outside Seattle (all times local):4:10 p.m.Authorities say the cougar that attacked two cyclists east of Seattle, killing one of them, appears to have been emaciated.Washington Department of Fish...

Portland jury issues million verdict against landlord

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A jury has ordered a rental-property company to pay more than million after a man fell through a rotting walkway at his Portland apartment complex.The Oregonian/OregonLive reports that Robert Trebelhorn argued that Los Angeles-based Prime Group, which owns the...

Cyclists tried to scare cougar but it attacked, killing 1

SEATTLE (AP) — The two mountain bikers did what they were supposed to do when they noticed a mountain lion tailing them on a trail east of Seattle.They got off their bikes. They faced the beast, shouted and tried to spook it. After it charged, one even smacked the cougar with his bike, and...

The Latest: Cougar that attacked cyclists was underweight

SEATTLE (AP) — The Latest on a cougar attack that killed one mountain biker and wounded another outside Seattle (all times local):4:10 p.m.Authorities say the cougar that attacked two cyclists east of Seattle, killing one of them, appears to have been emaciated.Washington Department of Fish...

OPINION

Golfing While Black Is Not a Crime

Grandview Golf Club asks five Black women to leave for golfing too slow ...

Discovering the Best of Black America in 2018

Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis discusses the DTU Journalism Fellowship & Scholarship Program ...

Will Israel’s Likud Party Ever Respect the Rights of Palestinians?

Bill Fletcher weighs in on the precarious future of the two-state solution between the Israeli government and the Palestinian people ...

The Future of Medicinal Marijuana in Pets

Dr. Jasmine Streeter says CBD-derived products show beneficial therapeutic benefits for pets ...

AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE NEWS

Principal apologizes for 'insensitive' prom tickets language

CHERRY HILL, N.J. (AP) — The principal of a New Jersey high school has apologized for what he called "insensitive" language on tickets for the upcoming senior prom.The Courier Post reported the Cherry Hill High School East senior prom tickets urged students to "party like it's 1776" during...

2018 midterms: An early heat for 2020 Democrats?

ATLANTA (AP) — Look closely enough at the 2018 midterm campaign and you'll see the stirrings of a Democratic scramble to reclaim the White House from President Donald Trump.The leading players — from established national figures such as former Vice President Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders...

Northern states taking down vestiges of racism, intolerance

DETROIT (AP) — A nearly 80-year-old statue depicting a European settler with a weapon in his hand towering over a Native American that some say celebrates white supremacy has been dismantled by crews in southwestern Michigan's Kalamazoo.And at the University of Michigan, regents have voted...

ENTERTAINMENT

'Jurassic Park' dinosaur expert's next big thing: holograms

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Forget the gray, green and brown dinosaurs in the "Jurassic Park" movies. Paleontologist Jack Horner wants to transport people back in time to see a feathered Tyrannosaurus rex colored bright red and a blue triceratops with red fringe similar to a rooster's comb.Horner,...

Kelly Clarkson honors school victims at Billboard Awards

An emotional Kelly Clarkson opened the 2018 Billboard Music Awards in tribute to the recent school children and teachers who died in Texas, barely able to speak as she urged the audience and the world to do more to prevent deadly shootings from happening.Clarkson, who is hosting the show, said she...

Chrissy Teigen and John Legend reveal name of newborn son

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Chrissy Teigen and John Legend now have a baby boy to go with their toddler girl.The 32-year-old model and 39-year-old singer, whose real name is John Roger Stephens, introduced Miles Theodore Stephens to the world on Sunday.Teigen had been hinting to her millions of...

U.S. & WORLD NEWS

In North Korea nuke site closing, spectacle trumps substance

TOKYO (AP) — Foreign journalists will be allowed to journey deep into the mountains of North Korea this...

Venezuela keeps voting stations open amid light turnout

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Voting centers across Venezuela's capital appeared largely empty during Sunday's...

Police response to Texas school shooting remains unclear

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Santa Fe High School had conducted active shooter drills, armed police officers...

Record Everest climber returns, already planning next trip

KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — A Sherpa climbing guide who scaled Mount Everest for a record 22nd time last week...

Pope Francis to invest 14 new cardinals in June

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis on Sunday revealed his latest picks to be cardinals in the Catholic...

Britain basks in royal wedding afterglow; grave gets bouquet

LONDON (AP) — Unwilling to kiss Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding goodbye just yet, Britain basked...

Rene Ciria-Cruz New America Media

Supporters of Proposition 36 are optimistic that changing attitudes toward prison reform, coupled with economic considerations, will have Californians voting in favor of tempering their state's controversial repeat offender law, known as "Three Strikes and You're Out," in the upcoming November election.

"Popular support has always been high for reforming Three Strikes," says Prop. 36 advocate Geri Silva, director and co-founder of the Los Angeles-based Families to Amend California's Three Strikes. "People realize that sending someone to prison for life for stealing a donut is absurd."

Backers of Prop.36 had no trouble gathering the 504,760 signatures required by law to get their measure on the state ballot – about 800,000 people signed the petition -- and a recent statewide survey conducted by Pepperdine University's policy school shows 78.1 percent of likely voters supporting it.

The sense of urgency among voters to reform Three Strikes, suggests Silva, can be attributed to prison overcrowding and soaring state spending on incarceration in the midst of a historic budget crisis.

The political climate in California and public attitudes toward prison reform were very different in 1994 when the Three Strikes Initiative, Proposition 184, passed in a landslide with 72 percent of the popular vote. The initiative benefited in part from public fear and anger over the highly publicized kidnapping, rape and murder of 12 year-old Polly Klaas the previous year.

Proposition 184 imposed a mandatory 25 years to life prison sentence for anyone in the state convicted of a third felony, including non-violent offenses like drug possession and theft.

Today, twenty-six other states have similar sentencing laws on the books, but California's Three Strikes law is widely considered one of the most severe.

In one infamous 1995 case, Jerry DeWayne Williams received a sentence of 25 years to life for snatching a slice of pizza from a group of kids.  Although Williams later convinced a judge to reduce his sentence to five years, the case became a flashpoint for prison reform advocates seeking to characterize Three Strikes as absurd.

While proponents of Three Strikes argue the intent is to keep murderers, rapists and child molesters behind bars, today roughly 4,000 inmates serving mandatory life sentences in California were convicted for nonviolent offenses.

Today, 18 years after Three Strikes was enacted, public perception of the law appears to have shifted. A Field Poll conducted last year found widespread disapproval of Three Strikes in its current form -- 74 percent of voters polled were in favor of changing Three Strikes and giving judges and juries more discretion in sentencing.

"People realize that the result of the current Three Strikes law isn't what they voted for," says Dan Newman, strategist for the 3 Strikes Reform Act campaign.

Proposition 36 would amend Three Strikes by imposing a 25 years to life sentence only if the third conviction is for a serious or violent felony.

The mandatory 25 to life sentence would still be invoked, however, for any third felony conviction if the individual also has a previous conviction for murder, rape or child molestation.

Under Prop.36, those with two strikes would be sentenced to twice the usual time for their third conviction for a non-serious felony, in lieu of the life sentence. Some 3,000 California inmates currently serving a 25 to life term for non-serious or nonviolent third strikes would become eligible to petition judges for re-sentencing, if the measure is approved.

A 2011 California Department of Corrections report showed 40,998 Californians were in prison for offenses classified as "srikes." Of these, 8,727 were for third strikes, but an estimated 40 percent of the third strikes were for nonviolent offenses.

The fair application of Three Strikes has also been called into question. Ten years after passage of the law, 45 percent of all inmates in California serving life sentences under the Three Strikes law were African American and about 30 percent were Latino, according to a Justice Policy Institute study.

Supporters of Prop.36 believe the economy will be a big factor in how people vote this November. California spends an average of $46,700 per inmate annually, according to a Legislative Analysts Office report released last year.

The current third-strike population will cost the state about $10 billion dollars over the next 25 years, says a Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice study. Meanwhile, proponents of Prop.36 say the measure could save the state up to $100 million a year in reduced prison costs.

Prop.36 is not the first measure that seeks to lessen the impact of Three Strikes -- its predecessor, 2004's Proposition 66, lost by a slim margin with 52.7 percent voting against – but its supporters believe this time will be different.

"Prop.36 itself is better written and clearer about going after the super-criminals," says Newman.

The care taken in crafting the language of Prop.36 is clearly a result of what happened in 1994, when opponents of Prop.66 zeroed in on ambiguities in the ill-fated proposition and boldly claimed that it would release 26,000 murderers and rapists into the streets, which Silva says was a "ridiculous and false claim."

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger used the claims to attack the measure in last-minute television ads, and the anti-Prop.66 campaign also garnered support from former governors, including Democrats Jerry Brown and Gray Davis.

Not wishing to see history repeat itself, lawyers from Stanford Law School crafted the language of Prop.36, together with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Because the measure is now written more clearly, explains Newman, "a broader, bipartisan coalition is behind Prop.36 this time."

Endorsers of Prop.36 include liberal philanthropist George Soros, conservative anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist, and a number of law enforcement officials. Investor David Mills gave $953,000 to the campaign, and Soros added $500,000 to the Prop.36 war chest – nearly $2 million to date.

So far, the opposition has raised $100,000, all coming from the Peace Officers Research Association of California, Political Issues Committee.

Three Strikes advocate Mike Reynolds, author of the 1994's Prop.184, contends that the law deters crime and should not be modified. Crime in the state has declined by 50 percent "in every category" since the law's passage, he states in a recent San Francisco Chronicle op-ed.

Critics point out crime had been declining even prior to Three Strikes. Moreover, a study by the Justice Policy Institute found that California's declining crime rates were no different from states without a Three Strikes law. And counties that used the law the least (San Francisco and Contra Costa) experienced slightly larger reductions in violent crime compared with counties that used it the most (Kern and Sacramento), according to the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice.

Three Strikes' dubious impact on crime prevention, in addition to the steep cost of implementing it, has swayed even some law-and-order conservatives to support its amendment. One is Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley, who was among those opposed to changing Three Strikes in 2004. Today, he is a vocal supporter of Prop. 36.

Although unsure of what the opposition has up their sleeve as the November election draws near, Prop. 36 campaigners are confident they have a better chance of winning this time around.

"Prop. 36 is a conservative measure," says Silva. "Unlike in 2004, this measure has fewer, if any, vulnerable attack points for the opposition to use."

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