Why I Do What I DoÖ
Welcome to Sentencing and Justice Reform Advocacy. My name is Barbara Brooks. Since the time my son Jeff was arrested in 1996 for evading police, I have been taking an active part in doing all that I can to get the California 3-Strikes Law changed, but it still has not happened. Jeff was sentenced to 25 years to life for this non-serious, non-violent offense. Whether or not it is his third offense, the time certainly does not fit the crime. How long is long enough?
My son, and other sons and daughters, approximately 4,500 of them, are growing old in extremely overpopulated institutions. The California prison systemís health services have been ruled unconstitutional by three Federal Judges because of the filth, medical neglect and the lack of appropriate mental health treatment, due primarily to the over-population.
At the present time, each one of these non-violent offenders cost Californiaís taxpayers a minimum of $49,000 per year, the cost rising with their age. The minimum amount of time for a third striker is 25 years. If Jeff is released when he has served 25 years, he has cost the taxpayers $1.25 million. All 4,500 of these 3-strikers serving sentences for non-violent, non-serious offenses at the minimum rate of $49,000 per year, will cost the taxpayers 5.625 billion dollars. When you think about it rationally, is it really worth it? Is it a good investment? Had these offenders continued on a serious and violent path of crime, we could justify the sentence. But when these non-serious, non-violent offenders have stopped their serious or violent offenses, evidently learning something from the impact of their prior incarceration, how can we say itís okay to put a person away for life for offenses which have a monetary value of less than $200 in most cases.
We now have another new draconian bad law, (Marsyís Law) or Prop 9, which takes the few rights that prisoners have away. It also gives the already overburdened parole board the authority to continue the personís review for up to 15 more years. So, since my son Jeff has to wait for 25 years before going to the parole board, and then they decide, by the authority of Proposition 9, that he can wait another 15 years before they review his case, they have the power to tell him to go back to his cell for another 15 years. Are we creating more victims? Is this the fair and impartial justice we all expect from our United States Constitution? Statistics show that longer prison sentences make matters worse, not better, institutionalizes people, making it difficult for them to survive in the real world, destroys family ties, and teaches more criminal behavior behind closed doors. What kind of hope will this person and their family have? Since I will have long departed from this earthly world, what hope will Jeff have for support after 40 years in prison? Have you ever thought that it could be your own child?
Will you and your family or organization join with me in building strength and unity with our numbers? Will you commit yourselves to helping us finally get this law changed, and bring our loved ones home? I invite every family to publicly acknowledge they will make some positive effort to make things right, so that justice is for all. Everyone, each one of us can do some small part in making change, beginning with ourselves and educating others. We all have gifts and talents. We can decide to be willing to share them for a cause greater than ourselves. We can stretch ourselves far beyond what we ever thought we were able, and see how much more we can do, when we dare to take a risk for such a noble cause as fighting for freedom from injustice.