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California Lawmaker Seeks To Expand DNA Gathering, Restrict Early Parole

SACRAMENTO (AP) — A Democratic lawmaker on Monday proposed a ballot measure that would bar certain convicted rapists and sex traffickers from earning credits to reduce their sentences and expand the list of crimes for which a perpetrator's DNA is collected.

Assemblyman Jim Cooper of Elk Grove said he's taking the measure to California voters because Democratic leaders repeatedly stonewalled legislation to enact similar changes.

"This initiative holds bad people accountable," Cooper said at a news conference outside the Capitol flanked by prosecutors and law enforcement officers.

The measure needs 365,880 signatures to go before voters in the 2018 general election. It would roll back criminal justice reforms implemented through voter-backed Proposition 47 in 2014 and Proposition 57 in 2016.

Proposition 57 allows many inmates to earn early release credits by participating in classes on anger management, substance abuse and other programming. No one is automatically released without going before the parole board.

Cooper's initiative would disallow anyone convicted of rape of an unconscious person, child sex trafficking, domestic violence and several other offenses from participating in those programs to potentially earn sentence reductions.

Critics of Cooper's proposal said it does not make sense to bar certain inmates from participating in rehabilitative programs.

"This measure is misguided, and it's not really driven by what works to stop the cycle of crime," said Lenore Anderson, president of Californians for Safety and Justice.

The expansion of DNA collection, meanwhile, would target certain crimes that were reduced from felonies to misdemeanors under Proposition 47, eliminating the state's ability to gather DNA evidence. Prosecutors and family members of crime victim's said that collection can help ensure perpetrators are put behind bars.

"You can't stand and deny justice to these people," said Stan Van Tassel, whose aunt was murdered in 1973. Her killers were convicted in 2017 based on DNA evidence.

Tom Hoffman, former head of the parole division for the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, said the proposals should be debated in the Legislature rather than going before voters.

© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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