The woman charged with stealing $40,000 in Target merchandise is being released from jail. Now what?


Publish Date:
December 1, 2021
San Francisco Chronicle
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“We could in theory put this woman in prison for the rest of her life,” Michael Romano, chair of California’s Committee on Revision of the Penal Code and founder of Stanford University’s Three Strikes and Justice Advocacy Project told The Chronicle. “But that doesn’t solve the problem from a deterrence perspective — it doesn’t stop the next person from doing it — and it’s much more expensive to incarcerate somebody than to provide treatment.”

Nothing in state law would prevent a court from locking Graves up for a long time, Romano said, noting that under Prop. 47 she could be eligible to serve six months for each count of petty theft.

Romano noted, however, that real solutions to property crime would probably require heavy investment in services to address the root cause.

“Problems that are entangled with, or adjacent to the justice system — poverty, addiction, homelessness, racism — these require long-term fixes,” significant resources, collaboration between agencies, and even commitment from the defendant, Romano said.

“There is no short-term fix” for this type of behavior,” Romano said.

After all, he explained, two years of drug or mental health treatment is longer and more intensive than a six-month stint in jail.

In many senses, Romano said, low-level offenses present a more difficult conundrum than severe crimes. “You need to have a long enough stick,” he said. “Or the carrot needs to be sweet enough.”

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