Reviewing the 2008 November California propositions — Prop 6

Basic information about Proposition 6 — “POLICE AND LAW ENFORCEMENT FUNDING. CRIMINAL PENALTIES AND LAWS. INITIATIVE STATUTE.”

Umbrella yes-vote site.

Umbrella no-vote site.

Not as lengthily complicated to digest as Proposition 5…but I’m not sure that helps much.

Prop 6 in ways addresses the same general area as Prop 5 but from a different angle. Rather than a focus on rehabilitation, Prop 6, from what I can best tell, is essentially a law-and-order approach — while rehabilitation is part of the measure, mostly it’s an expansion of funding for police forces and prisons, in combination with a review and changing of a variety of criminal penalties in matters of gang and violent crime, as well as creating new penalties.

And that alone gives me pause, frankly.

Trying to find the exact words for my unease is hard to put my finger on, though. I should note this now, though: I’ve long thought that some of the blanket condemnations of all law enforcement members out there are as problematic as those of members of the military, say — it does not allow for possibilities of change, of inclusion and of new approaches that reflect the best of this society, even as it would be utterly foolish to deny that problems can and do exist, individually as well as institutionally. (Hey, I live in OC — all I have to do is point to the example of Michael Carona, as I’ve done before.) I touched on this sense of promise briefly in this post last month regarding one of the victims of the Chatsworth crash, LAPD officer Spree DeSha:

Without wanting to make her a symbol — from what I can tell in the reports and memories that have been posted, she was a low-key and no-nonsense person and officer who would have been embarrassed by what she considered to be outsized attention — I think it is a sign of some sort of progress, quietly but ever onward, that full honors from the police, church and city were granted to someone who also just happened to be lesbian, and whose partner….also works for the LAPD as a full officer. This is as it should be. No further qualifiers are necessary.

Instead, the larger question in my mind revolves around two things — money (again, as always a larger matter in this election than ever before) and the scope of the new laws and more covered by this proposition. I am leery over the idea that this is biting off more than it can chew, as well as what appears to be an underlying supposition that the range of penalties regarding certain crimes should be expanded in combination with wanting to build more prison space. There is something cart-before-the-horse about this which I’m not sold on, and this is before taking into account the fact that fourteen year olds could be tried as adults or the expansion of what is considered ‘hearsay evidence,’ which opens up further cans of worms.

Ultimately, if both 5 and 6 are seeking to address an understandably troubling subject, crime, punishment and treatment, if 5 is the right idea at the wrong time, 6 just seems like a wrong idea in general, expensive and with possibly unintentional consequences, with too much tied up in it all that deserves more individual consideration instead. Not good.

A simple NO.

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