By Senator Shannon Grove
Published in the Orange County Register on July 17, 2019
Link to article here: https://www.ocregister.com/
There seems to be no end to California Democrats’ quest to weaken our criminal justice system and release more criminals back into our communities.
First it was letting prisoners out early, then it was reducing felonies to misdemeanors, reducing penalties for using guns to commit crimes, and ending the cash bail system. Additionally, Gov. Gavin Newsom placed a moratorium on the death sentences of California’s most vicious rapists, murderers, and criminals.
Now a Democratic state senator wants criminals convicted of serious felonies such as murder, rape, car-jacking, kidnapping, sexual offenses against a minor, hate crimes and a host of other similarly serious crimes to be able to serve on a jury immediately upon release from jail or prison, even if they are still on parole or probation.
This truly gives a new meaning to “a jury of your peers.”
Under current California law, a person convicted of a felony cannot serve on a jury. However, there is a pathway for convicted felons, after three years, to petition the court for a certificate of rehabilitation in order to help re-establish all of their civil and political rights.
There are valid reasons to help former convicted criminals be productive members of society. Senate Bill 310 eliminates the process in place that restores civil and political rights for rehabilitated criminals and makes it automatic, without any investigation. Convicted felons would not have to demonstrate rehabilitation, remorse or have made amends.
Felons convicted of violent or very serious property and drug crimes leave lasting impacts on their victims. How can California deem all ex-cons – including those still on active parole, probation supervision, or even life-long sexual predator status – as appropriate for selection in an unbiased jury pool?
Allowing felons in the jury pool to ensure the pool reflects California’s communities tells me the majority party has a dim view of our communities.
The last thing California should do is blindly reinstate civil rights to criminals, letting them stand and judge without any demonstration they are ready for a juror’s responsibility to protect individual rights and promote the community’s common good.
Senate Republicans believe that if we are truly serious about helping the formerly convicted re-enter society, we need to focus on rehabilitation, job training, and drug treatment. All Senate Republicans voted against SB 310 on the Senate Floor, but the bill passed on a party line vote and now heads to the State Assembly for consideration.