This is a follow-up to my initial comments on the proposed initiative, titled The Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016, I’ve had a chance to read the text, and also to peruse my rockstar colleague David Ball’s terrific comments.
There are basically two parts to the reform. One of them, which I covered in my previous commentary, is the move away from determinate sentencing and toward parole hearings–and as I said in my previous post, this is only a good thing insofar as we believe that parole commissioners will make better decisions than prosecutors. Granted, any decision that takes into account the particular individual’s situation is better than a rubber stamp based on severity of the offense, one’s rap sheet, and these two factors alone, but I have come to see the way parole boards exercise unfettered discretion regarding lifers as something to worry about, and would like to see some supervision and standards (not to mention more training) for commissioners.
The other part is the abolition of direct filing and placing the decision whether to try a juvenile as an adult in the hands of the court, not the prosecutor. As Ball points out, the numbers are pretty small, but for the individual, how discretion is applied could matter a great deal.
I remain overall optimistic, even enthusiastic, about this–but only to the extent that we’re not merely transferring the exercise of unfettered discretion from one actor to another without thinking about effective guidelines and supervision for its application.