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California Could Soon Get Access To More Inmate DNA

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — A proposed ballot initiative attempts to keep prisoners locked up, and get more DNA into state databases.

In 2014, voters passed a measure that would cut California's prison population, by letting some criminals out of prison early, while reducing some violent crimes from felonies to misdemeanors.

California lawmakers, law enforcement, and prosecutors want to reverse that.

Shirley Derryberry waited four decades for closure.

And it was DNA evidence testing that finally solved her sister's murder. DNA that was taken from a man in a drug case.

"They were raped, sodomized and shot in the back of the head, and we solved the crime 43 years later. If that [recent drug crime] happened today, it doesn't get solved, said Assemblyman Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove).

He says police cracked the case just before Proposition 47 took effect, reducing drug crimes to misdemeanors, and excluding DNA collection.

The proposed ballot initiative would require certain criminals to provide DNA. It would also keep child traffickers, rapists, and other serious violent offenders in prison, instead of letting them out early.

Cooper has attempted to get this sort of legislation passed in the legislature twice before. In March, we spoke to him when he was introducing Assembly Bill 16, which was a reintroduction of a failed bill, Assembly Bill 390. The previous two measures failed over concerns they went too far.

"We're here to make some fixes to the laws that impact public safety," Sacramento District Attorney Anne Marie Shubert.

"To suggest that is just a scare tactic, said Thomas Hoffman, who advises CA for Safety and Justice

Thomas Hoffman, a representative for Prop. 47 supporters, says blaming crime on a ballot initiative makes no sense.

"Law enforcement should begin to discuss how we are going make it work better not unravel it," said Hoffman.

The new initiative would also make theft a felony. Right now, thieves who steal anything less than $950 get hit with a misdemeanor.

And it would prevent parole for those who violate it. The men who killed Derryberry's sister won't be eligible for parole for about 20 years. But she's not done fighting for justice.

"There are so many other young girls children women out there, assaulted by these same guys getting away with this every day.

The American Civil Liberties Union disagrees.

A spokeswoman released a statement rejecting the initiative, saying crime is at historic lows and people who commit those crimes are being held accountable and receiving treatment to help them get back on their feet.

As for the backers of the initiative, they're just getting started.

They need to collect about 370,000 signatures to qualify for the 2018 ballot.

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