The former Sacramento County sheriff's captain is no stranger to criminal justice reform. Since he assumed office in 2014, Assemblyman Cooper has been on a mission to reform the system and, in his words, "make it more accountable to the perpetrators, and empower victims."
To that end, voters will get to weigh in on Coopers 2020 ballot initiative Keep California Safe,"We've got some issues to fix," Copper told me, "AB109, Prop. 47, Prop. 57, right now we're letting out about 100 lifers every month and have been for the past year."
Cooper says the political focus needs to change, "It's interesting when you hear debates on the floor (Sacramento) no one ever talks about the victims, and folks have lost sight of that. I had a bill to address these issues that I couldn't get through committee, and so we went the initiative route, and our criminal justice reform initiative will be on the ballot in 2020."
California Criminal Justice Reform
August 31, 2018
Jim Cooper made his intentions clear as it relates to violent crime and the lax penalties that he says, are making the state of California "somewhat lawless."
Addressing his colleagues earlier this year, Cooper noted, "To drug and rape a woman, to pimp a child, human trafficking of an 8-year-old girl, domestic violence, drive-by shooting, those are not considered serious or violent crimes in California currently, which is just not in step with what the community wants. There's a big silent majority who want changes to our criminal justice system and our 2020 initiative will fix some of the issues."
Cooper is referring to Proposition 57, a 2016 ballot measure written by former Governor Jerry Brown that made it easier for prisoners who participate in rehabilitation programs to win release. The initiative applied to those convicted of crimes considered nonviolent under state law -- a short list created years ago that in fact does exclude some heinous-sounding offenses.
Gov. Brown Challenges, Newsom Opportunities?
It's fair to say Jim Cooper and former California Governor Jerry Brown didn't see eye to eye on California's criminal justice system.
Gavin Newsom is now the Governor of California, so I asked Cooper if he expected a better relationship with the current regime. "It's a new governor it's a new day and I'm looking forward to working with him and find solutions for Californians, that's the goal, and hopefully we can find common ground."
Keep California Safe Initiative
"At the end of the day I'm working hard to do what's best for Californians." ~ Assemblyman Jim Cooper
Cooper is attending the IVP conference in Hawaii, where one of the breakout topics is criminal justice.
Cooper says the ability to actually talk at-length about the issues is what drew him to the conference, "It's a grind in Sacramento but here it's a little more relaxed, and we have the time to drill down into the issues," Cooper continued, "The great thing we do here is to have in-depth lengthy conversations and not be rushed off to a meeting or hearing. This is the time where we can really focus on what's effective. At the end of the day, what's best for California is number one, and this conference gives us a good opportunity to drill down on the issues."
His efforts will go before voters in 2020 with the Keep California Safe initiative. The initiative is being bankrolled by the business and law enforcement communities.
What it would do:
- Reclassify currently “non-violent” crimes like rape of an unconscious person, sex trafficking of a child and 14 other serious crimes as “violent” — to prevent the early release of inmates convicted of these crimes
- Reform the parole system to stop the early release of violent felons, expand parolee oversight, and strengthen penalties for parole violations
- Reform theft laws to restore accountability for serial thieves and organized theft gangs
- Expand DNA collection to include those convicted of drug, theft, domestic violence and other serious crimes to help solve rape, murder and other violent crimes — and to exonerate those wrongly accused