Serial Killers Avoid Long Sentences Under New Alameda District Attorney

In November, the progressive candidate, Pamela Price, was elected district attorney of Alameda County, California, after pledging to “disrupt the system.”

Now, she is doing just that, letting serial killers escape long sentences as part of plea deals, and letting many violent criminals off with just probation.

A March 1 memo from Price requires prosecutors to seek nothing more than probation in most cases, including robberies and most sexual assaults. It also requires prosecutors not to disclose “special circumstances” in most murder cases, because disclosing the aggravating circumstances of a killing could lead to killers who are unusually vicious being sentenced to life without parole, rather than being eligible for parole in 15 years.

The Berkeley Scanner reports:

Barring “extraordinary circumstances” and approval by District Attorney Pamela Price herself, the penalty for most crimes in Alameda County will soon be restricted to probation or the lowest-level prison term. Price announced the news in a memo to her office Wednesday afternoon….Numerous people from the DA’s office have [anonymously] told The Berkeley Scanner that this approach is not the right way forward. They said they are deeply concerned about the impacts the new policies will have on public safety in Alameda County and that neither victims nor their families have been asked to weigh in. “This is catastrophic to the safety of our community,” one DA’s office employee said….


Going forward, if a case is eligible for probation, that “shall be the presumptive offer,” the directive reads. If it is not, the sentencing offer “shall be the low term.” “Almost all felonies, including those that are serious or violent, will now be probation eligible,” said one source familiar with the situation. “You basically have to make a probation offer.” Exceptions include murder and certain sex crimes involving young children. But that’s about it, sources said…..

Price drew criticism from the families of crime victims in January when she dropped special circumstances in the case of a convicted killer facing multiple murder charges, then again in February when she dropped them as part of a proposed plea deal for a man who had been charged with committing three murders in 31 days.

Alameda County is less able to prosecute criminals than it used to be, thanks to Price’s policies.

The Berkeley Scanner reports that in “the month since Pamela Price took charge as Alameda County’s new district attorney, she has put a half-dozen of the office’s most experienced prosecutors on leave and fired its top two investigators, dismissed special circumstances in a high-profile murder case and created a funereal atmosphere for many employees.”

Lower employee morale and fewer employees on the job will aggravate the County’s growing backlog of criminal cases.

Even before Price was elected, “the Alameda County district attorney’s office was already severely understaffed, with many of its lawyers ‘drowning’ under the workload. There were about 135 prosecutors on the payroll and the office had a 1,000-case backlog.”

Price is already lowering sentences for serial killers. For example, she dropped special circumstances allegations against convicted killer David Misch,who has been charged with murdering two Fremont women and a 9-year-old Hayward girl in the 1980s. As a result, he will no longer face the possibility of life in prison without parole.

Critics called this action a “total betrayal” of victims’ families, and left the state with no leverage to get the killer to leading authorities to the 9-year-old’s body, which was never located.

Short sentences leave criminals free to kill again. So does giving them probation, rather than incarceration, after they are arrested.

Most murders in Baltimore are committed by people who previously were convicted of a serious crime, but didn’t serve a lengthy sentence for that crime. “You want to see homicides go down? Keep bad guys with guns in jail…The average homicide suspect has been arrested 11 times prior to them committing a homicide,” notes the police chief of Washington, DC. 

Longer sentences keep dangerous individuals locked up so they can’t harm law-abiding people. Studies of countries with very low incarceration rates have found that letting criminals out early increases the crime rate, and that higher levels of incarceration are a good investment.

As El Salvador increased its incarceration rate, its murder rate fell from the world’s highest to a rate lower than many of America’s big cities (such as Chicago, Los Angeles, Baltimore, Detroit, New Orleans, St. Louis, Milwaukee, and Cleveland).

Criminal-justice expert Michael Rushford says that longer sentences make inmates less likely to reoffend when they finally are released. Studies of two California laws indicate that longer sentences also deter some crimes, by making it more costly to commit a crime.

Talk of “mass incarceration” is misleading. The U.S. has a large prison population, but that is mostly because it has a large population and a lot of violent criminals. The U.S. incarcerates fewer people per hundred murders than Australia, Japan, or Switzerland, and incarcerates fewer people per capita than Turkmenistan or El Salvador. As criminology professor Justin Nix notes, “Given its level of serious crime, America has ordinary levels of incarceration but extraordinary levels of under-policing.” Most people in state prisons are there for “violent offenses.”

Courtesy of Liberty Unyielding. (Full article available on website).


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