Sunday, November 05, 2006

Class Justice In Arnold Schwarzenegger's California

It is an unfortunate fact that some Hollywood liberals such as Steven Spielberg have been taken in by a few "moderate" or "reasonable" postitions of California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, but have failed to see many hard right postions that are very regressive if not openly racist.

In California it has become a popular sport to blame illegal aliens for all of the state's budget woes and to use these poor persons merely seeking a better life as economic refugees from their own lands for political gain by the far right. But a large part of California's budget problems can be blamed on a hige and bloated criminal justice system with the nation's most unfair and racist "three strikes" laws.

Gov. Schwarzenegger opposed efforts to make California's "three strikes" laws only apply to violent criminals, unlike the other 24 states in the U.S. that have such laws. So in California you have a "three strikes" law that is used to round up poor, homeless, mentally ill and drug problem plagued Black citizens to a far higher level that any state in the U.S. Only around 313 of the 7,000 Californians serving 25 years to life under Calirornia's "three strikes" laws are serving time for murder as a "third strike". Many are serving anywhere up to life for relatively minor crimes that have outrageous "intent " abuses applied to them.

Burglary for example is defined by a very broad "intent" standard under California law. One Black woman who was convicted under the "three strikes" law actually only opened up a 99 cent bottle of soda in a supermarket and took a few sips before before charged with "burglary" as her "third strike". Because she had no money , this served as "intent" to commit to a crime under California 's absurdly far fetched open ended definition of "burglary". There was no breaking and entering standard as there is under most accepted versions of burglary under other state's standards. In fact the first person convicted under California's "three strikes" laws was a Black with a history of homelessness, mental illness and drugs who merely snatched a piece of pizza from a child at a mall. This was claimed to be "robbery" by the prosecution. 65% of all persons convicted under the "three strikes" law are Blacks. Some states would merely prosecute such small time thefts with a $100 fine as minor offenses with no jail time.

It costs up to $85,000 to $100,000 a year to house elderly in California's prisons due to increased medical costs as prisoners age. Creating a huge drag on California's budget. "Three strikes" laws also call into question "double jeopardy " laws, where a person already convicted and having served a sentence is again tried and forced to serve time for the same crimes when a third crime is brought before a court. The third crime is not prosecuted under the normal standards for that particular crime, and instead the person is retried and reconvicted and resentenced for two previous crimes already brought before a court. There is no question that that "three strikes" laws violate "double jeopardy" standards for a retrial for the same crimes as once before that time has already been served for.

This what Gov. Schwarzenegger allows in California; the warehousing of many Blacks for relatively minor third offenses that is a huge drag on the state's budget, and unfairly racist. Some liberals like Steven Spielberg should really examine what Schwarzenegger really stands for. Schwarzenegger is hardly as progressive as some liberals really wish him to be.


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