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California Editorial Rdp

July 23

The San Diego Union-Tribune on council for criminal justice reform:

The U.S. criminal justice system locks up proportionately more people for longer periods than just about any nation on Earth, yet it has a higher crime rate than the great majority of large democracies, according to the Numbeo global crime database. Plainly, what America is doing isn’t working.

That’s why the new Council on Criminal Justice is so welcome. Its board of trustees includes former California Gov. Jerry Brown, state Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, current and past politicians from both parties, a Koch brothers representative and a Black Lives Matter organizer. They hope to build on the First Step Act, a U.S. law enacted in December with bipartisan support that makes federal sentencing laws less punitive.

The first focus will be a task force exploring quick, evidence-based ways to improve the justice system. Here’s an idea: Copy what’s worked in other nations, heed the research that shows that crime is overwhelmingly a young man’s game and realize that locking people up for decades sharply lessens their chances to redeem their lives. Australia, Singapore, Finland and Norway emphasize humane policies like keeping prisoners in contact with family members and providing vocational training and have recidivism rates that are less than half of America’s.

What’s crucial to progress is an appreciation that making criminals serve long sentences in harsh conditions is hugely counterproductive. The direct cost of a vast prison system is high enough, but the indirect cost to society of turning young wrongdoers into dysfunctional individuals for the rest of their lives is also huge. The Council on Criminal Justice should make this point forcefully and often, not just propose reforms. Doing so will help build support for the profound changes our system needs.


July 20

The Desert Sun on pilot program that would allow alcohol sales to be extended to 4 a.m.:

The California Legislature is taking another shot at giving some cities, including three in the Coachella Valley, the chance to have establishments like bars and nightclubs serve alcohol beyond the statewide 2 a.m. cutoff. We believe that the pilot program under consideration is a good idea.

State Sen. Scott Weiner has pushed this idea before, getting it all the way to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk last year before seeing it vetoed. This session’s SB 58 has made it through the Senate and is currently in a House committee.

The plan is simple enough: Give local authorities (read: city councils) in Palm Springs, Cathedral City, Coachella and seven other California cities the option of alcohol sales until 4 a.m.

We believe that safeguards in this five-year pilot program will help ensure this doesn’t become a free-for-all that floods areas with new late-night options to “tie one on.”

Local input and oversight is included

For example: Licenses sought by businesses wishing to have two additional hours for serving must be approved by the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. Applicants will have to pay an annual $2,500 fee to ABC to cover additional costs of this program.

Cities in the pilot program group that choose to participate must first create a local plan drawn up by a committee that includes at least one member of law enforcement and at least one additional member of the California Highway Patrol.

Among other things, that plan must:

—show that public convenience or necessity is served by extending service hours;

—show that there is significant support among nearby residents and businesses for the extended hours service area;

—assess the potential impacts to public safety and detail how local authorities will manage those impacts;

—indicate that the city wants to participate in the pilot program.

Gov. Brown was blunt in rejecting last year’s bar-time extension.

“. We have enough mischief from midnight to two without adding two more hours of mayhem,” Brown said in vetoing Weiner’s SB 905. He said he was following the advice of state and local police worried about a spike in late-night drunken drivers.

Those are valid concerns. Still, we believe that this approach — which would begin in January 2022 and sunset, unless extended by the Legislature, in January 2027 — has enough safeguards to give local and state officials the wherewithal to ensure this doesn’t spiral out of control. As well as what is detailed above, the law calls for an evaluation by the Highway Patrol on the effects to public safety from the program a few years after it debuts.

This works elsewhere. It can here, too

In addition, California would not be an outlier if this change goes into effect. As has been noted, New York City bars can stay open until 4 a.m. In New Orleans, bars never have to close, just like in Las Vegas or in any bar across Nevada. Other states have various closing hours beyond California’s current 2 a.m. law.

According to the Legislature, at least 15 states allow local jurisdictions at least some authority in deciding sale hours for alcoholic beverages.

Boosters of this idea, like Sen. Weiner, say it will help tourist-destination cities like Palm Springs and his own San Francisco draw more visitors and convention business.

We believe officials in the 10 cities in the pilot program should be allowed to investigate the matter, as is called for in the legislation, and use that knowledge to determine if this could work in their communities. It’s unclear whether all will join in, which is as it should be at this stage.

If the bill does become law, we expect that those cities in the Coachella Valley that participate will be diligent in creating their plans and monitoring how the extra hours of bar time affect their communities. They should ensure that their local plans account for any special concerns that might exist — locations, security costs, etc. — and be upfront about how they will address them.

This five-year pilot program can serve as a good proving ground to see if this really does improve a city’s economic draw, as boosters claim, in what local authorities and their state counterparts could use as a closely monitored experiment. Lawmakers can always pull the plug if it fails.


July 20

The Sacramento Bee on Turkey prosecuting California professor:

If the government of Turkey wanted to hide its alleged massacres of Kurdish civilians from the world, its strategy has clearly backfired. By prosecuting critics like UC Davis professor Baki Tezcan, who dared to sign a petition protesting the Turkish army’s slaughter of innocents, embattled Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has created global awareness of the issue.

Until recently, few in our community had ever heard of Tezcan, a historian with a focus on Middle East history who has worked at UC Davis for decades. Now his plight has become a regular feature in the news. He was seized by Turkish authorities in June when he arrived there to conduct academic research. The Turkish government has put him on trial for signing a petition criticizing the government’s policy toward the Kurdish people.

Few of us keep up with the twists and turns of Turkish politics, but now we know how sensitive Erdogan’s government is about charges that it has deliberately killed Kurdish civilians.

In California, we are quite familiar with Turkey’s desire to deny historical atrocities. To this day, the Turkish government refuses to admit the fact that it carried out genocide against the Armenian people. Turkey exterminated approximately 1.5 million Armenians between 1915 and 1916. Despite ample and indisputable historical evidence of the Armenian genocide, Turkey aggressively denies the truth.

Now they’re playing the same game with regards to the Kurds, an ethnic minority located mostly in Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria. The Kurds have long sought to establish an independent state that includes a region of southeastern Turkey, and the Turkish military has fought armed separatists and terror attacks. As part of their strategy to suppress the insurgent forces, the Turkish military has also killed civilians.

In 2016, Tezcan joined 2,000 other academics in signing a petition to protest what they called the “deliberate and planned massacre” of Kurdish civilians in southeastern Turkey “with heavy weapons and equipment that would only be mobilized in wartime.”

“Once the petition circulated widely, Turkey began charging the signatories, claiming that they spread propaganda from a Kurdish group that Turkey deems a terrorist organization,” according to a Sacramento Bee story by Elaine Chen.

Standing before a judge in a Turkish courtroom last week, Tezcan defended the right to free speech, saying he “couldn’t really be comfortable with pulling back.” He also noted the fact that the “Declaration of Peace” he signed with other academics only gained widespread notice after Erdogan decided to make it an international incident.

“What keeps the Declaration for Peace in the news is not the declaration but the reaction to it in Turkey. For example, the local newspaper where I work in California reported on the Declaration for the first time, three and a half years after it was originally signed, in the context of an article reporting on my having been detained in front of my wife and children when I disembarked from the plane,” said Tezcan in a written statement to the court. “In other words, the Declaration has now been publicized in California’s capital of Sacramento not because of my signature but due to the arrest warrant issued by this court.”

Let’s hope Turkey’s judges prove wiser than its president and end the persecution of Tezcan and his fellow academics. To prosecute citizens for free speech is to attack democracy and freedom, and to push Turkey backward instead of forward. Besides, President Erdogan’s thin-skinned and overblown response to criticism has done more to highlight the plight of Turkey’s Kurds than any petition ever could.

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