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Community Voices: Suicide of the Golden State



Jan 7, 2024

I was driving down Truxtun Avenue the other day and I saw a homeless man lying on the grass in front of a business with his hand down his pants. It dawned on me how desensitized I have become to mentally ill drug addicts occupying our public spaces.

I have lived in this city for 39 years and have watched it change in a number of ways. The worst change began nine years ago when the state of California passed Proposition 47. This bill’s stated purpose was to “ensure that prison spending is focused on violent and serious offenses, to maximize alternatives for nonserious, nonviolent crime, and to invest the savings generated from (the proposition) into prevention and support programs in K-12 schools, victim services, and mental health and drug treatment.”

The idea was to keep violent offenders locked in prison while finding alternatives for people who commit property and drug-related crimes. It does not sound menacing on the surface, but anyone who has been alive and kind of paying attention can see things have gotten much worse.

Prior to this bill, when someone was caught by the police with a usable amount of narcotics such as methamphetamine, cocaine, cocaine base, heroin, ecstasy, etc. (excluding marijuana), they were arrested for a felony and booked in jail. Most cases would plead out to probation and some sort of drug-monitoring/rehabilitation program. The person would spend a few weeks in jail and then be required to submit to drug testing and participate in a drug program.

Once Proposition 47 went into effect, anyone in possession of an amount of narcotics that was determined to be for personal use was given a citation and released on a promise to appear in court. No jail time. Now the cops seize their bindle of meth, give them a ticket, and then release them back into the city to go get some more meth. The result has been catastrophic.

The old system definitely had its flaws. If someone develops an opioid problem because they were prescribed an addictive painkiller by their doctor for an actual medical condition, they will often end up turning to street drugs like heroin in the old days or fentanyl nowadays. If this person is committing no other crimes, it seems improper to lock him up with violent criminals.

However, at least with the old system people were forced to get clean for a few weeks at a time when they were in jail. They would kick their physical addiction, eat regular meals and sleep in a real bed on a normal schedule. These short jail stints would get them back to homeostasis and keep them alive and sane.

Now that they are only cited and released, there are people wandering our streets who have smoked methamphetamine every day for the past nine years. What happens to someone who smokes meth every day for nine years with no breaks? They go insane and stop functioning in any normal capacity. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, go drive around in any major California city and you will see them everywhere.

This problem often gets misconstrued with a “housing crisis” or a “mental health crisis,” but those are symptoms and not the problem. While it would be nice if the cost of housing wasn’t so high and if there were a few more beds in the homeless shelters, this would not stop these people from living on the street.

It's also true these people are having a mental health crisis, but that’s what happens when you smoke methamphetamine every day. If you have schizophrenic episodes every time you use meth, you don’t need counseling and psychiatric medications. You need to stop using meth. The broken business windows, piles of human excrement, tents on sidewalks and mentally ill homeless people wandering around everywhere are all a direct result of Proposition 47. God bless California.

Travis Harless is a police officer, SWAT operator, former Marine and three-time Iraq War veteran. By TRAVIS HARLESS

Jan 7, 2024

Read his writing at travisharless.substack.com.

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