Riverside County District Attorney, Sheriff argue against proposed state amendment

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Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin speaks at a Blue Lives Matter rally outside the Historic Courthouse in downtown Riverside on Sept. 12.
By Jessica Lopez 

The Riverside County Sheriff and District Attorney argued against their perceptions of the current state of criminal justice reform March 11.

The virtual Conservative Republican Town Hall, hosted by Town Hall Central and the East Valley Republican Women Federated, discussed a California constitutional amendment introduced by State Assemblymember Sydney Kamlager, D-Los Angeles, as well as issues with defunding the police. 

The amendment introduced in December, known as ACA 3, seeks to remove the exception of slavery and involuntary servitude to be used as punishment for crime. 

A similar proposal passed through Tennessee’s State Senate on March 16, with only four republican votes in opposition. 

 Over 200 people attended the virtual meeting, anchored by radio personality Don Dix. He drew from outside sources regarding the proposal’s intent, offering videos of inmates charged with gang-related murders praising the new Los Angeles District Attorney’s “soft-on-crime legislation.”

Dix presented a website that seemingly sponsored the anti-slavery amendment.

“This movement appears to want to actually get inmates paid a minimum wage and then, eventually, based on articles that we’re reading from the Communist Party USA website … to get these inmates unionized,” Dix said.

The amendment, however, has no known ties to the Communist Party. Kamlager presented details about the bill in early March at a news conference.

Kamlager said it exclusively focuses on removing all vestiges of slavery from the California Constitution.

Sheriff Chad Bianco argued against the proposed amendment and the growth of police reform movements in the past year. 

“With ACA 3, you have to go back to what I said earlier,” he said. “There is absolutely nothing that will ever pass our current legislature that is going to benefit public safety, really even benefit the public. There is a momentum of everything for an inmate.”

He said the amendment is an act to defund the police and there is absolutely no way he would pay a criminal to work. 

According to Bianco, inmate work programs currently take $45,000 annually from the Sheriff’s Department budget. He remarked that if this number were to increase, it would mean reducing the amount of officers out on patrol. 

District Attorney Mike Hestrin expressed similar concerns regarding the possible amendment, dismissing its intent altogether. 

“The idea that you would equate incarceration with involuntary servitude or slavery to me is problematic,” Hestrin said. “They’re totally different. Incarceration that’s ordered by a judge as a just punishment, after a trial where the defendant’s constitutional rights have been protected, that’s not the same as involuntary servitude or slavery. And so equating those things, I think, is dangerous.” 

Both guest speakers were listed with their official state titles on the advertisement for the meeting.

Avalon Edwards, policy fellow for Starting Over Inc., the Riverside chapter for All of Us or None, argued that may have violated the Hatch Act.

The Hatch Act is a law that places limitations on federal, state and local government employees on participating in political events while on duty.

Edwards Argued in an email that Bianco and Hestrin failed to present as private citizens and separate from their line of work, often directly relaying on-duty experiences.

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