A showdown over crime and punishment looms

By Dan Walters

April 27, 2021

Should California continue to reduce punishment for crimes large and small, or has it gone too far and implicitly allowed criminals to prey upon Californians without fear of imprisonment?

The question has reverberated throughout the state over the last half-decade, ever since former Gov. Jerry Brown lunched a personal crusade to scale back the lock-‘em-up laws that California enacted — including some that he signed — in the 1980s and 1990s.

California voters will answer it next year by either giving newly appointed Attorney General Rob Bonta, a fervent believer in the softer approach to crime, a full term or replacing him with someone with a tougher attitude toward lawbreakers.

The conflict jelled on Monday when Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert declared her candidacy, saying, “The California criminal justice system is in chaos” due to laws and policies that value rehabilitation over punishment.

Schubert devoted much of her announcement to denouncing Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón and San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin as “rogue prosecutors,” criticizing state legislators for ignoring crime victims in their rush to soften punishments, and tying Bonta to them.