Fresno County DA concerned about impact of California laws

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The Fresno County District Attorney is speaking out against new laws approved by Governor Jerry Brown aimed at reforming California’s criminal justice system. 

“This is not political. It’s not R and D, blue or red. This is public safety. This is humanity. This is economy. This is the health of the State of California which is in jeopardy every single day,” said Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp.

Fresno County prosecutors say it’s become so difficult to hold criminals accountable in California courts that now they’re moving many cases to federal court. 57 defendants now face federal charges and could go to prison instead of being released. 

When Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 1391 into law children under 16 will now no longer be tried as adults regardless of the crime. Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp believes it’s going to have a negative impact.

“What is going to happen now is the gang members are going to recruit that much younger and for all the crimes that the 14 and 15-year-olds can’t be held accountable for anymore in adult court and they’re going to be kept in juvenile court, guess what? They are going to put the guns in the hands of those babies,” said Smittcamp.  

Criminal defense attorney David Mugridge looked over the new law and says this legislation was necessary. 

“14-year-old and 15-year-old young boys simply don’t have the mental capacity to think as rationally as a 24-year-old man would,” said Mugridge.  

Mugridge suggests more work be done to help young people avoid gangs in the first place, but Smittcamp says this law will only makes gangs more aggressive.

“That’s what these laws are doing. They are going to encourage the criminal element to bring up the young ones even faster and nobody who votes for this in Sacramento does the work that we do and they don’t understand the ramifications of it,” said Smittcamp. 

     Smittcamp says prison overcrowding drives this type of legislation and that needs to change. 

“Oh, well we don’t have room in the prisons. Well you know what? California increased its population. We have more stores, more hospitals, we have more schools. We have more services all over the place, but nobody wants to say we need to build more prisons,” said Smittcamp.   

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