What Will California’s Election Results Mean for Prison Reform?
Jerry Brown, once the youngest governor in California’s history, will now take office as its oldest. For AG, the Golden State will have Steve Cooley, who’s called for reforming California’s three strikes law (sort of) while overseeing a DA’s office that sent more felons to death row than all of Texas last year. What might all of this mean for prison reform? Rather than speculate myself, I’d actually be curious to hear from readers in comments or via e-mail. UPDATE: When I wrote this post last night the Los Angeles Times had called the AG race for Cooley, but now it looks like Kamala Harris may win by a hair. Stay tuned!
In the meantime, I thought readers might be interested or at least amused in some reminiscences of the (first) Jerry Brown administration. These are from a 1988 oral history given by John Nejedly, former state senator and an architect of California’s determinate sentencing regime, which Brown signed into law (PDF link):
There were a lot of things about him, but if you could show something that was socially wrong, had a fundamental social inconsistency, you could get his attention. He was pretty close to the Jesuits, so I got some people in the Jesuit hierarchy to talk to him about it [prisons], because I went with them over to the same prison on Thursday nights, when we would go over there, and they called him, told him what the problems were. It was a minister, you know, that put that resolution of the Attica thing into place, and he called him …
Not for nothing did they call him Governor Moonbeam:
But it was a much more fluid, flexible, unmanaged system with Brown than it was with Reagan. You could pretty well predict Reagan. But Brown. *** Especially when he got into that screwy presidential campaign; that was bonkers. He was all over the place and he had a good looking dolly going over to Africa with him and he flips from that scene and he goes to New Hampshire and screws that one up. and Illinois. God, it was bananas.
But I liked the guy! If I met him today, I’d invite him to go on a hike. He’s the kind of a person you’d go on a hike with.