Column – Another scare technique we shouldn’t buy

Cody Bashore and Cody Bashore

Lock your doors everyone, because the streets of Santa Barbara are now filled with freed criminals.

The county recently released 22 inmates from their jail and another 49 from the alternative sentencing program. Another 57 inmates either in jail or in an alternative program are expected to be released by the end of January.

But before you all run out to buy tasers or feel the need to walk in pairs at night, make sure you understand who is affected by these changes.

Only low-risk offenders would be released, and the sentences of violent criminals or registered sex offenders won’t change.

We shouldn’t be afraid of anyone our government considers a low-risk offender. We don’t seem to have an alternative to letting people out early, so this is a must.

Because that’s the case, I’d release those who drank too much one night or were caught tagging, especially if it keeps sex offenders and all other violent criminals out of our neighborhoods.

A change in Section 4019 of the California Penal Code caused the prisoners’ sentences to be cut down. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger amended the penal code in hopes of fixing the growing overcrowding problem in the state’s prison system, but it applies to all jails as well.

Inmates will now be given a one-half day credit for good behavior instead of one-third. Basically, every two days an inmate serves, they are credited with three days toward their sentence.

Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said this will make it more difficult for his police force to keep the public safe.

Schwarzenegger seems to feel otherwise. He explained this will not compromise public safety.

Clearly, the governor has the right idea here.

We shouldn’t buy Sheriff Brown’s “you will not be safe” argument. Most of the inmates released are probably guilty of crimes such as public intoxication, marijuana possession or vandalism.

These are not the crimes of dangerous people. They are probably all first-time offenders who screwed up once and paid the price.

Also, if you do the math, they are serving about a week or two less than they would have before the change. Not a big difference.

Granted, I’m sure we would prefer these individuals not be out on the streets, but do they really pose a threat to our safety?

Most of these crimes only hurt those committing them.

Obviously, no one condones breaking the law. But there’s no need to worry about keeping a shoplifter behind bars for an extra week while the state is struggling to pay its employees.

Plus, this is supposed to save taxpayers some money. Whether it does or not will remain to be seen. Jail cells will probably be filled soon enough by those on the next episode of On Patrol with SBPD. But the intent to save us some cash is there and we’ll take it.

Yes, they may end up re-offending and returning to jail. But low-risk offenders have earned these early releases with good behavior-they are not just handed out freely.

Sheriff Brown is trying to use scare tactics-something people in positions of authority normally do.

Former President Bush told us Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and it turned out there weren’t any. Back in the mid 1950s, Sen. McCarthy said communists were working in the government and we didn’t find any. The list goes on.

If Brown really wants to keep us safe, he just needs to make sure he rounds up these low-risk offenders again if and when they deserve it.

After all, we are paying him to do just that.