Some blame spike in crime on massive release of prisoners

Massive release of prisoners blamed for spike in crime

Prison reform is a hot topic in more than a dozen states.

But the massive release of prisoners is being blamed for a major spike in crime here in California.

William La Jeunesse of FOX News explains why that is.

Whittier Police Chief Jeff Piper says: "Enough is enough.You're passing these propositions, you're creating these laws that are raising crime."

Last year Governor Brown sold voters on Prop 57, which mandated the early release of supposedly non-violent offenders.

Critics have heard it all before. "The most recent statistics from the U.S. Department of Justice show violent crime rates in some California cities has increased by over 50%," said Michele Hanisee, president of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys.

Prosecutors say recent measures to reduce the prison population by releasing non-violent offenders early and make some felonies misdemeanors have backfired.

Chief Jeff Piper said, "It's not good for our community and it's not good for our officers."

The chief blamed these new laws, like AB-109 for the death of Officer Keith Boyer.

Under the old law, felon Michael Mejia would have been in prison after violating parole four times.

Instead, he got just ten days in jail before the murder. "Ten days in jail, which to a hardened felon is a slap on the wrist and has no effect," said Michele Hanisee.

Sentencing Project Executive Director Marc Mauer said, "The link between incarceration/crime is not nearly as strong as many people believe it is."

Advocates say reform works when states invest in programs like drug treatment and job placement.

Mauer said, "New York and New Jersey have reduced their prison populations by 25% in the last decade and they've seen crime rates decline.”

California hoped to duplicate that three years ago, by passing Prop 47.

It reduced some 40,000 felony convictions a year to misdemeanors and saved the state $100 million.

Hanisee said, "If it's not AB-109, if it's not Prop 47, why are the violent crime rates going up? Because they are."

In one case in California, a man was arrested 13 times in three months for theft.

Each time police gave him no more than a ticket, suggesting prison reform may keep people out of jail, but not out of trouble.