Judges traditionally only endorse candidates in judicial races and are normally precluded from public endorsements of elected officials and local ballot measures due to ethical constraints. But because Measure S directly impacts the criminal justice system, public comment by judges is appropriate and many of us are supporting Measure S.
Measure S is one of the most important votes you can cast on November 2nd. For decades, our local government leaders and Grand Juries have documented, in lamentable fashion, the substandard and unsafe conditions existing in our local jail. These conditions create constant threats for both inmates and custody staff. By voting “Yes” on Measure S, you will be making a statement that such conditions are inhumane and unacceptable and serve as a breeding ground for future criminal conduct.
A “Yes” vote on Measure S is also a stand for prevention and rehabilitation, as key tools to securing safety in our community. To effectively reduce crime, we must help ex-offenders change their lives and become productive members of our communities. We know this can be done. It’s happening right here in our county. Our local drug courts have had excellent results. Less than 13 percent of graduates from these programs re-offend within a year.
The Santa Barbara County Reentry Project has worked with inmates returning from state prison and reduced recidivism by over 35 percent. Prevention and rehabilitation programs work – and they save money, reduce crime, and free up jail capacity. Measure S will dedicate $5,000,000 per year to increase these proven programs, and will allow us to implement new ones as well.
A “Yes” vote takes a stand for a jail located in the north county, where over 50 percent of our population lives and where over 50 percent of our jail inmates are from. Each of those inmates must be transported to the County Jail upon arrest, often taking North County law enforcement officers off the street for several hours. Each inmate must also be transported from Santa Barbara to a North County Court by bus for every court appearance, at great expense and negative impact on the environment.
A “Yes” vote on Measure S also takes a stand for enhanced public safety resources in all our cities as well as the county. Every local area would receive funds for front line fire and/or police personnel. These functions have been cut back over the last few years and public safety has been compromised as a result.
A “Yes” vote on Measure S will make our community a safer place by ending the early release of convicted criminals. We send the wrong message when those sentenced to a term in jail are released early. Offenders learn that the criminal justice system doesn’t really have the ability to enforce its orders and that there aren’t serious consequences for criminal activity. Currently our jail releases over 1700 inmates each year before they’ve served their full sentence. And when a defendant in court knows that a 45 day jail sentence actually means seven days behind bars, some will reject the “leniency” of probation and choose to do the week, further exacerbating the overcrowding problem.
Measure S appears on the ballot at a difficult economic time. There are serious fiscal problems at all levels of government. There is a looming financial problem caused by under-funded public employee pensions. There are deep concerns about government’s ability to achieve positive results. The defeat of Measure S will not help solve any of those problems. It will simply increase the current inequities and problematical circumstances existing in Santa Barbara County’s criminal justice system.
Measure S does not give money to Washington, Sacramento, or even to our County General Fund. It targets funds to a very specific local problem – local public safety.
Nobody likes taxes, but here we have a unique opportunity. Measure S will take effect the day after the State’s sales tax will be lowered by 1 percent, for a net ½ percent reduction in Santa Barbara County’s current tax rate (from 8.75 percent to 8.25 percent). And it allows us to leverage over $56 million in state monies set aside for jail construction that will go to some other county if Measure S fails.
The opposition to Measure S is extremely short sighted. It’s easy to be a critic. Let’s go a step further and help build a solution. For pennies a day, we can protect what’s most important: our families, our homes and our neighborhoods.
- By Judge Thomas R. Adams. Judge Jed Beebe, Judge Jean Dandona, Judge Denise DeBellefeuille, Judge Rogelio Flores, Judge James Herman, Judge Royce Lewellen (Ret.), Judge Frank J. Ochoa, Commissioner Deborah Talmage (Ret.), Judge Rick Brown (Ret.), Judge George Eskin, Judge Colleen Stern, Judge James Slater (Ret.), and Commissioner Pauline Maxwell.