Prop 9: Victims' Rights

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, October 17, 2008

It’s been nearly 30 since Harriet Salarno’s daughter was killed by an ex-boyfriend. And she’s still hard on herself for not seeing the warning signs.  

“I was so stupid and naïve in those days. I didn’t know what stalking was all about.” 

Salarno’s 18-year-old daughter Catina was shot to death in her dorm room at University of the Pacific in Stockton. It was September of 1979…the night before Catina was slated to start her first day of college. Her ex-boyfriend was living in the same dorm.   

“He had a gun in his backpack and he murdered her execution style.” 

The ex-boyfriend was sentenced to serve 17-years-to-life in prison. Catina’s killer is still in prison today. Salarno’s experience with the judicial system motivated her to become a victims’ rights advocate. She formed Crime Victims United of California…one of the groups backing Prop 9.   

“…and we are not taking anything away from the criminals. We’re only asking to have the same rights that they have.” 

Under Prop 9 those rights would include allowing victims to state their views during all public criminal proceedings…and being able to consult with prosecutors about what kind of criminal charges are being filed. Prop 9 also cuts the number of parole hearings a prisoner gets and restricts the early release of inmates. 

Glenn Backes opposes Prop 9. He’s with the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. The Oakland-based group promotes positive alternatives to incarceration. 

“There’s a lot of sympathy in our coalition for the position of victims. But most of the Victims’ Rights provisions which would be supportable are already state law.”   

Backes is referring to the “Victims Bill of Rights” a proposition passed by California voters back in 1982. It required that victims be notified of critical points in the legal process. Backes also says Prop 9 would hurt California’s ability to relieve prison overcrowding.  

“They are not going to be allowed to release one prisoner to address overcrowding. No matter how minor the crime or how dire the budget emergency.” 

He says that would mean taxpayers would have to pay for more prison construction. California’s non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office says Prop 9’s restrictions on early inmate releases would cost the state hundreds-of-millions of dollars annually. 

However, the LAO also says cutting back on the number of parole hearings each year would likely save the state.