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THE NEXT LOS ANGELES / TURNING IDEAS INTO ACTION : Public Safety : Can we agree on down-to-earth steps to ensure that community-based policing actually will work? : Solutions : Enforce Minimum Sentences

July 17, 1994

FROM: Arnold Heilemann, vice president of Justice for Homicide Victims, a group he joined after his 15-year-old son, Clinton, was killed in a Pacific Palisades parking lot by a transient armed with an assault rifle.

Like many victims' relatives, Heilemann advocates strict enforcement of minimum sentences for violent offenders, to keep them in prison longer and thus prevent them from endangering the public's safety. The problem, he says, is not so much that sentences are too short but that often the terms are cut drastically if the convict behaves in prison.

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REALITY CHECK

Unlike trendy efforts to lengthen criminal sentences, like the so-called Three Strikes provision, such truth-in-sentencing proposals are not new or unusual. But they do have the potential for quick results.

Enforcing minimum sentences could begin almost immediately, if proposed state legislation were passed. But the major hitch, Heilemann concedes, is getting state legislators to pass those laws.

The state Department of Corrections recently estimated that the proposal could cost more than $100 million, although supporters say such estimates do not account for the savings that would be accrued by preventing felons from committing other crimes.

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