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 experience of diving into the criminal justice pool, going in 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 percent 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 who defrauded an elderly couple out of their life savings, con artists engaging in extortion, and anyone convicted of selling fentanyl-laced drugs to minors. Also, violent offenses that are pleaded 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. gang members—from being released early. 

And perhaps worst of all, while the current law does not allow inmates who were previously convicted of a violent or aggravated felony to be eligible for early release, “Second Chances” eliminates that exception. Someone who is serving for a current drug offense, even if they previously served 25 years for 2nd degree murder, would be treated the same as the person who does not have a violent record under this proposed legislation. 

The backers of the measure clearly are worried that their initiative will lead to more crime. What else could explain 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.

Further, the initiative makes sweeping changes to the state’s mandatory sentencing system, eliminating the ability to charge repeat offenders (such as someone who burglarizes 10 homes) more severely than someone who commits 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 leftist billionaire George Soros.

It isn’t enough that Tides has destroyed their own state. Now they want to move next door.

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, confident that their criminal activity is unlikely to be charged by county district attorneys.

A coordinated jail break is only the start of this kind of 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 on the level of initiative at the ballot box. This should resonate all the more 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. 

About Scot Musi

Scot Musi is president of the Arizona Free Enterprise Club.

Photo: Canva

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