Criminal Justice Conversations with David Onek: Senator Mark Leno, CA Senate Public Safety Committee | KALW

Criminal Justice Conversations with David Onek: Senator Mark Leno, CA Senate Public Safety Committee

Mar 16, 2010

In Episode #6, Senator Mark Leno, Chair of the California Senate Public Safety Committee, discusses politicians' fear of being labeled "soft on crime," his community corrections bill, the need for a state sentencing commission, the importance of trauma recovery centers for victims of violence, and more.

Leno Interview Highlights

Leno on the Percentage of General Fund Spending on Corrections:

"One of the things I looked into upon my arrival [in Sacramento in 2003] was the percentage of general fund spending on the Department of Corrections ... I came to learn that California spent a greater percentage of general funds on corrections than any other state in the country — at the time we were 5.3% ... We are now pushing 11% — we have doubled the percentage we are spending of our general fund on corrections ... If we don't really contain this we could hit 15% ... What are we doing?"

Leno on Politicians' Fear of Being Labeled "Soft on Crime":

"The politics of the issues we are talking about are so highly charged that legislators are very cautious to support anything that they think could be in any way twisted or misconstrued in their next primary election, not even general election, because of course the fear is that one would be labeled as 'soft on crime.' We have got to thoughtfully craft some public policy, attempt to step outside ourselves and think for the better of the state and not just for our own next re-election."

Leno on the Need for a Sentencing Commission:

"The argument against the sentencing commission ... is that it abrogates our elected responsibility to protect the people of California to an unelected, unaccountable commission. But that is not true. Because the commission whatever they decide we could overturn at any moment by a simply majority vote ... It's just letting this independent commission, without all of the politics driving them, give us a more thoughtful read ... The goal is safer communities and less crime. But if we're scatterbrained about it we're not going to be able to do that."


The Criminal Justice Conversations Podcast with David Onek features in-depth, thirty-minute interviews with a wide range of criminal justice leaders: law enforcement officials, policymakers, advocates, service providers, academics and others.

The Podcast gets behind the sound bites that far too often dominate the public dialogue about criminal justice, to have detailed, nuanced conversations about criminal justice policy.

Podcast host David Onek is a Senior Fellow at Berkeley Law School and a former Commissioner on the San Francisco Police Commission.

You can find more information on the Criminal Justice Conversations Podcast and listen to all past episodes on the Podcast web site.

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