“Second Chances” Criminal Justice Initiative is Radical and Dangerous

“Second Chances” Criminal Justice Initiative is Radical and Dangerous

At a time when our country is witnessing unprecedented social upheaval and the undermining of the rule of law, the last thing Arizona needs is a liberal group from California funded by George Soros infiltrating our state to rewrite our criminal justice laws.

Yet that is exactly what the “Second Chances” initiative would do if passed in November. Unlike other sensible criminal justice reform efforts, this jail-break initiative would gut much needed protections to stop the release of dangerous predators into our neighborhoods and eliminate essential reporting and transparency requirements used to track criminal trends in the state.

Over the last several years the Free Enterprise Club has been a strong advocate for reasonable criminal justice reform efforts, including measured expansions of earned release credits for non-violent felons, requiring a criminal conviction in civil asset forfeiture cases, and ensuring individuals with a record can obtain any required licenses for employment. 

Many of these common-sense reforms were opposed by the very liberal groups now pushing this initiative, leaving one to question whether their commitment to criminal justice reform is more about politics than good public policy.

Soros Initiative Goes Too Far, Too Fast

When it comes to improving the criminal justice pool, one toe at a time makes the most sense.  Every tweak has consequences intended and unintended.  Unlike many other areas of policy, those consequences can leave literal carnage in their wake.  “Second Chances” dives head-first. 

For example, the initiative significantly expands the state’s Earned Release Credits (ERC) program by allowing for as much as a 50% reduction in an inmate’s sentence as well as making more felons eligible for the program.

Which criminals would benefit from the new ERC program?  Felons that defrauded an elderly couple out of their life savings, con artists engaging in extorsion and anyone convicted of selling fentanyl-laced drugs to minors.  Also, violent offenses that are pled down to non-violent offenses would be eligible as well. There is no exception or consideration for persons serving for non-violent offenses who are a part of a “security threat group” i.e. a gang member from being released early. 

And perhaps worst of all, current law does not allow inmates who were previously convicted of a violent or aggravated felony to be eligible.  “Second Chances” eliminates that exception.  Even if someone is serving for a drug offense currently, if they previously served 25 years for 2nd degree murder, they should not be treated the same as the person who does not have a violent record. 

The backers of the measure are clearly worried that their initiative will lead to more crime.  It is probably why they purposefully removed the reporting requirements by the Department of Corrections designed to collect meaningful data on any earned release credit program.  This intentional shift to remove transparency and accountability is a way to cover their tracks and dodge blame for creating more victims.

Furthermore, the initiative makes sweeping changes to the state’s mandatory sentencing system. The initiative eliminates the ability to charge repetitive offenders (such as someone who burglarizes 10 homes) more severely than someone who committed just one offense. Giving judges complete discretion to deviate from sentencing guidelines will lead to a wide spectrum of arbitrary sentences for the same offenses.

Initiative is Being Pushed by the Liberal Tides Network

So, who could possibly want to take a wrecking ball to Arizona’s criminal justice system?  The answer is liberal Silicon Valley residents who do not have to live in our neighborhoods once the prison doors swing wide open.  Second Chances is being bankrolled by Tides Advocacy, an arm of the Tides nexus that is funded by liberal billionaire George Soros.

It isn’t enough they’ve destroyed their own state.

In 2014 these same groups pushed Proposition 47 in California, which significantly lowered penalties for several criminal offenses.  Since then, property crimes and drug offenses have gone through the roof, adding to an already serious homelessness problem.  Fraudsters and organized theft rings are migrating to the state, knowing these offenses are no longer felonies and if caught, are likely not to be charged by county attorneys.

A coordinated jail break is just the start of the madness.

Criminal Justice Should NEVER be Done at the Ballot Box

The area of criminal justice reform is too complex and the effects too severe to be decided at the ballot box.  This is especially prescient given our inability to change voter approved laws due to the Voter Protection Act.  The drafters of “Second Chances” included language to make it clear that the legislature may only expand the generous benefits provided to convicted felons, they are not allowed to roll them back.

Backers are sure to spend a lot of time talking about the “Victim and First Responder” fund that is set up by transferring money from revenues from medicinal marijuana under this measure. Which is fitting because the initiative is sure to lead to a lot more victims.

Ultimately, Arizonans would be wise to not invite more chaos into our state.  “Second Chances, Rehabilitation, and Public Safety Act” is not about justice and it is not about compassion.  It will damage public safety, harm victims and is a tool being used by the left to further promote their agenda. Voters would be wise to vote NO come November.