Letters to the Editor

Letters to the editor - August 10 edition

Staying vigilant

Recently, California passed Proposition 57, the Public Safety and Rehabilitation act of 2016. Prop 57 was supposed to get nonviolent offenders out of prison and into the rehabilitation programs they need to get back on their feet.

Legally, any crime not expressly defined as “violent” in section 1192.7(c) of the penal code is considered nonviolent. Legally, the term “nonviolent” includes crimes most of us consider violent, for example; rape of an unconscious person, domestic violence, arson of forest land, and assault with a deadly weapon.

We are now seeing violent offenders being released after serving only a fraction of their sentence.

Recently Kenneth Jackson, convicted of 21 counts of arson and sentenced to over 30 years in prison, has come up for parole consideration after serving just four years. This defendant’s file, including letters submitted by the victims and the district attorney’s office will be reviewed by a single parole officer who will make a decision, record his reasons, and move on to the next file.

We have no right to appeal any decision to release Jackson. If he is denied parole this year, his file will be reviewed annually until he is released, creating a problem for our community.

While it is tempting to throw up our hands on frustration, for the sake of public safety, we cannot. That is why I am collaborating with Cal Fire, to look at moving this type of arson into the category of violent crimes.

Adding those crimes common sense dictates are violent to the legal definition of violent crimes may be one part of the solution. Another part is vigorous opposition to each and every dangerous felon being released before serving their sentence.

These actions won’t solve every problem prosecutors currently face trying to keep communities safe, but they are a start.

Sally Moreno, Madera

NOTE: Sally Moreno is challenging incumbent David Linn in the 2018 Primary election for Madera County District Attorney, and was the lead prosecutor in Jackson’s case. She is now a deputy district attorney in Fresno County.

Setting the record straight

I am writing in response to the newspaper’s recent articles, regarding Kenneth Jackson, the YLP arsonist.

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has the following language regarding non-violent parole consideration process:

“Under Article 1, Section 32(a)(1) of the California Constitution, adopted under the Act, the department is directed to establish a parole consideration process through which inmates currently serving prison sentences for ‘only’ nonviolent felony offenses shall be eligible for parole consideration after completing the ‘full term’ for his or her primary offense, subject to certification by the Secretary of the department that these implementing regulations protect and enhance public safety.”

On the CDCR website, it states that arson, in violation of subdivision (a) or (b) of Section 451, is a violent offense.

Penal Code Section 451(b) states:

“(b) Arson that causes an inhabited structure or inhabited property to burn is a felony punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for three, five, or eight years.”

Jackson was convicted of 20 counts of arson of wildlands, and one count of arson of an inhabited structure, a home. The one count of arson to a home marks him as a violent offender, not non-violent. This means he does not qualify for the non-violent parole consideration process.

Proposition 57 is not the horrible law that district attorneys and sheriff departments are making it out to be. For those wanting to learn more about the regulations CDCR has released and help write letters to make Proposition 57 even better to reduce mass incarceration and give those who deserve a second chance an opportunity to do so, there will be a tutorial and letter writing event on Sunday, Aug. 13 at 2 p.m. at the Fresno Downtown Library, 2420 Mariposa Street.

Victoria Johnson, Advocates Delivering Love.