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Heated debate over tougher punishment for sex crimes as some worry it could unfairly affect California’s minorities

Sep 26, 2016

This is from the L.A. Times:

Heated debate over tougher punishment for sex crimes as some worry it could unfairly affect California’s minorities

By Jazmine Ulloa, Sept. 9, 2016

Outside the Santa Clara County Jail this month, U.S. Senate candidate Loretta Sanchez joined other political leaders in calling for the ouster of Santa Clara County District Judge Aaron Persky, who attracted widespread criticism over the lenient sentence he handed down to former Stanford swimmer Brock Turner.

She also made another appeal — that Gov. Jerry Brown sign Assembly Bill 2888, which would impose mandatory minimum sentences for offenders like Turner, who have been convicted of sexually assaulting someone who is unconscious or intoxicated. “That bill must be signed,” Sanchez said. “It would ensure the incarceration of violent sexual predators.”

High-profile cases have spurred a number of bills now before Brown, many of which like the proposal championed by Sanchez, would provide tougher penalties and repercussions against defendants in sex crimes. But their approval is not an easy task at a time when California and a number of advocacy groups and associations are reevaluating the effectiveness of strict punishment policies.

Opponents to the legislation say they are not against holding sex offenders accountable. They say they are against proposals that continue to stack the deck against poor and minority offenders in a system they believe already is unequal in its treatment of those offenders.

“The criminal justice system is not able to address widespread social problems, and when we attempt to do so, it hurts the people with the least power,” said Margo George, co-chair of the legislative committee under the California Public Defenders Assn.

For years, lawyers and victims advocates said, getting tough on sexual assault has meant tougher repercussions for abusers. George, who has been a public defender since 1986, said she once was one of thousands of feminists across the country who fought for harsher punishment against sex offenders when crimes against women were trivialized in culture and society.

Feminist movements first brought attention to domestic violence and sexual assault as early as the 1930s, …

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