Charles Payne

Tomorrow, state officials in California will review a petition to gain a vote in November that would reduce prison sentences for non-violent felonies. Backers claim that there are more than 800,000 signatures already, which exceeds the 504,000 signatures needed. If passed, the law would reduce the long sentences for minor drug possessions, shoplifting, check forgeries, and other such non-violent felonies to misdemeanors.

Video clip from Fox Business

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This is a curious turn of events for several reasons:

California became a tough-on-crime state, mostly through a brilliant union campaign that created the most fascinating fortuitous cycle. In 1980, California had approximately 24,471 inmates and approximately 2, 500 correctional officers. Then came the campaign pushed by the union that eventually lead the state to become the first state to embrace the three-strike rule.

Growth of a Union Powerhouse

Inmate Population

1980

24,471

1983

34,640

1991

97,309

1999

165,166

2005

172,000

1980 to 2000 state built 21 new prisons

There are now 31,000 members of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA). The state spends $10 billion or 11.5% of the state's general fund managing its prison system. If this initiative is passed, proponents say it will save taxpayers $250 million a year.

Strange Bedfellows


Charles Payne

Charles V. Payne is a regular contributor to the Fox Business and Fox News Networks. He is also the Chief Executive Officer and Principle Analyst of Wall Street Strategies, Inc. (WSSI), founded in 1991 which provides subscription analytical services to both individual and institutional investors.