Proposition 21, if passed, will cost Californian taxpayers about one billion dollars to implement, and hundreds of millions of dollars each year afterwards. In return for this huge price, our streets will not be safer. There are plenty of laws on the books now, an alarming number of prisons, and every year there are increasing attempts to legislate the problem until it disappears. But these "tough-on-crime" initiatives have never worked. There are already laws in California allowing for the treatment of minors as adults in our correctional system. No reason exists to think that this law will finally make our streets safer.
In fact, it might make our streets more dangerous. The definition of "gang-related felonies" is so wide-sweeping that it applies to three people in possession of controlled substances, as long as some prosecutor believes they intended to sell it. The proven correlation between actual gang violence and increased penalties for drug offenses indicates that this attempt to save us from criminals may make matters worse.
We should prosecute people for their actions, not their associations. Being related to a "gang" does not change what offenses someone's committed. If we're to fight gang warfare, we should target its cause: prohibition. Violent crime is ripping our society apart, but this proposition is not worth a billion dollars, let alone the paper on which it was written.
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Last updated: 5 March 2000, Kevin Dempsey Peterson