Jerry Brown Biography
Jerry Brown (Edmund Gerald Brown Jr.) is an American politician who served both the oldest and sixth-youngest Governor of California as a consequence of the 28-year gap between his second and third terms, he also served as the 34th and 39th Governor of California from 1975 to 1983 and also from 2011 to 2019. After his law school, Brown worked as a law clerk to California Supreme Court Justice Mathew Tobriner.
Jerry Brown Age
Jerry Brown was born on April 7, 1938, in, San Francisco, California, United States. he is 80 years old as of 2018
Jerry Brown Family
Brown was born in San Francisco, Edmund Gerald “Pat” Brown Sr. , who was the District Attorney of San Francisco and later Governor of California and Bernice Layne. his dada was of Irish and German descent.
His great-grandfather namely August Schuckman, a German immigrant, settled in California in 1852 during the California Gold Rush. and grandmother Edmund brown.
Brown is the only son of four children, namely Kathleen Brown, Cynthia Arden Brown, And Barbara Layne Brown
Jerry Brown Wife|Is Jerry Brown Married
He is married to an American business executive Anne Baldwin Gust who was by then the First Lady of California between 2011 to 2019. The two got married on June 18, 2005.
Jerry Brown Height
- Height: 5′ 11″ (1.8 m)
Where Is Jerry Brown From
The Democrat is from San Francisco, California,
Where Does Jerry Brown Live
His official residence is located at 1526 H Street in Sacramento.
Jerry Brown Image
Jerry Brown Career
Jerry Brown was first elected California Secretary of State in 1970 and held office from January 4, 1971, to January 6, 1975. however, he also won cases arguing against ‘Mobil’, ‘Gulf Oil’, ‘International Telephone and Telegraph’ and ‘Standard Oil of California’ in the California Supreme Court. He focussed on fiscal restraint that led the state to achieve one of the highest budget surpluses of around $5 billion in its history.
During 1995 Jerry started hosting a daily radio show in the local Pacifica Radio station, KPFA-FM, in Berkeley. thereafter, he left the ‘Democratic Party’ and contested as an independent candidate and beat 9 other candidates securing 59 % votes to become the 47th Mayor of Oakland on January 4, 1999.
Jerry Brown Neth worth
He has an estimated net worth of $4. million.
How Long Has Jerry Brown Been Governor Of California
Jerry Brown first served for eight years as a governor between (1975-1983) and later returned to office after 28 years as a governor for another eight years between 2011 to 2019
Jerry Brown Term
He first ran for Governorship in California on November 5, 1974, and won for the first term
He was them re-elected for the second term in 1978 and won against the Republican state Attorney General Evelle J. Younger.
Jerry Brown Previous Offices
- Attorney General of California between 2007-2011
- Mayor of Oakland City, CA between 1999-2007
- Governor of California between 1975-1983
- Secretary of State of California between 1971-1975
Jerry Brown Email
Jerry Brown Contact
Governor Edmund G. Brown
c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814
Jerry Brown Office
Governor of California until Jan 7, 2019
Jerry Brown Trump
In 2018 he accuses Donald Trump of gross ignorance over climate change as he made his most sweeping actions yet to rid the world’s fifth largest economy of fossil fuels.
Jerry Brown Political Party
- Democratic Party
Jerry Brown Immigration
Jerry Brown blames the country for dysfunctional immigration terming it as an inflammatory football that very low-life politicians like to exploit.”
Jerry Brown Portrait
Linda Ronstadt And Jerry Brown
Jerry once dated a high profile women, and the most notable singer Linda Ronstadt in
Is Jerry Brown, Gay
Jerry Brown is not a gay
Is Jerry Brown A Democrat
Brown is a member of the Democratic Party
Jerry Brown Nickname
His nickname was ‘Governor Moonbeam’
Jerry Brown Quotes
- Inaction may be the biggest form of action.
- The government is becoming the family of last resort.
- It looks to me to be obvious that the whole world cannot eat an American diet.
- Too often I find that the volume of paper expands to fill the available briefcases.
Jerry Brown Video
Jerry Brown Facebook
Jerry Brown Twitter
Jerry Brown Interview
Jerry Brown interview transcript: On fights worth fighting, runaway legislatures, and ‘stupid’ laws
Q: You’re looking back at eight years. Do you have any regrets about what you didn’t get done? Say they magically came up and said, “Governor, you’ve got four more years in this job.” What needs to get done? What didn’t get finished that you want to see done?
A: I can’t think of anything, to tell you the truth. I don’t look back that much. I do reflect on my life over time, but that doesn’t stop with the governor’s office.
I also think that with these eight years there was an extraordinary amount done, and I certainly contributed to that. It was a very productive effort getting our gas taxes defended and implemented, the cap and trade and the worker’s compensation, the local-control funding formula, and the budget deficit turned into a massive surplus. The rainy-day fund, the water bond, the water action plan, groundwater management, the voluntary settlements, the (delta water) tunnels, the high-speed rail also advancing, despite multiple lawsuits and incredible complexity. The climate change initiatives, the 50 percent renewable effort by the PUC (state Public Utilities Commission), the ARB (state Air Resources Board). Quite extraordinary. There’s nothing like it anywhere else in the United States.
So you said, what else is there to do? I’d say the nature of history or the nature of the state or the country or the world is that there are always issues, and tomorrow’s issues will probably be a little different from today’s or yesterdays. That’s the nature. You can’t, as long as life continues, button-down everything and solve all problems, even future problems. That’s a silly idea.
I would by no means say I’m perfect, but I would say this has been an extraordinary period in terms of governor’s terms. Oh, and the prison reform, Prop. 57. So there’s just a whole list.
Now, you can always find people who talk about the cost of housing, the gap between the rich and the poor, but this is true in Sydney, Australia. It’s true in London, it’s true all over the world. Those are challenges people ought to address, but I’d say just looking back at the time I was there, either these things were not as salient as the problems I dealt with or they weren’t as high a priority as the ones I dealt with, because the ones I dealt with were forced into public attention for the most part or they’re ones I chose to push.
And by the way, depending on who you talk to, you can get different things. If someone wants to stop fracking, they say, “You didn’t stop fracking,” or people would say your air rules didn’t go far enough or some of the equity groups that say your local control funding formula was not prescriptive enough, you don’t have enough metrics.
Q: You’re never going to make everyone happy, right?
A: Not only can’t you make them all happy, but you can’t solve all problems — otherwise, you’d be dead. As long as you’re alive, you’ve got new issues for tomorrow and next week and next year. That’s why I would frame my answer in terms of looking back and going forward in terms of what I got done. Not the things I didn’t do that people say, why didn’t you do them? You might say, why didn’t you lower the tax on the rich and spread it (state taxes) out on services or something else? I didn’t feel that was a fruitful line of activity.
Q: The governor can’t just snap his fingers and say, this is done.
A: There’s the Legislature, and you wouldn’t get that (tax change) by a two-thirds vote. The gas tax showed that. We barely had the votes. It was touch and go right up to the vote. If you had an initiative, I doubt that would pass. So if there was some widespread consensus that included a certain amount of Republicans maybe — we had that on the gas tax, we had that on cap and trade, we had that on the water bond — but some of those other things that people might talk about, the problem is they’re not tied up in a way that we can get that. Not to say that things are perfect.
Q: Certainly when you came in as governor, you knew you had to deal with the finances. That was the big one out there.
Q: Were there any things that you ran into that you were surprised about, that you came and looked under the hood a bit and said, “Whoa, there are some other things we need to do”?
A: I’m surprised at all that we got done. That’s what I’m surprised about. I don’t think there’s any precedent for all the initiatives. As has been pointed out, the majority vote on the budget (repealing the requirement for a two-thirds vote of the Legislature) was a major change in the rules of governance, and that was very powerful. And the fact that we had a strong Democratic majority, that was also an important factor that wasn’t under my control, but certainly determined the outcome. Was I surprised?
Q: Did something jump out at you that you didn’t expect to deal with?
A: I’m trying to think. The fires were certainly new.
First of all, these things are enormously complex. Understanding the water system of California, I’d bet there aren’t 100 people in California that could really give a detailed accounting of what our water system is, its local, state and federal components. These things take an enormous amount of time. The environmental documents probably go 1 million pages. This is complex stuff.
Maybe that’s what’s changed. The complexity of the criminal law, the water law, the tax law, all these laws are very complex and the Legislature, as is the executive branch, is very dependent, as I am, on well-schooled and well-experienced staff. Much of the debate and the discussion between the executive branch and the Legislature consists of staffs talking to one another, and certainly, in the last eight years, there is a centralization of decision-making into relatively few hands, just by the nature of the multitude of factors. And it’s not something you can lightly talk about.
Even the criminal law, something as simple as enhancements or credits. They’re sufficiently complicated that the judicial authorities make mistakes all the time, not knowing what the sentence is because the law is so complicated the judges can’t figure it out. Now I’ve corrected that, in part, with (Proposition) 57 in allowing the secretary of corrections to set the terms and credits. Even that I’ve dealt with. (Prop.) 57 allows the Secretary, by regulation, to establish a scheme of good time, milestone and rehabilitative credits. That allows for a more rational, humane system, as opposed to the legislative exercise, year after year, of going back and forth. Most inmates used to get a day for day credit.
Q: And then they changed that.
A: Not once, but dozens of times, usually to the point of getting fewer credits.
The point I want make isn’t about criminal law, but about the complexity of our modern California, the need for highly trained staff and the dependence of the electeds, including myself, on staff that’s highly trained. For example, the Department of Water Resources, or even the high-speed rail or Caltrans, much less the Public Utilities Commission — let’s leave out the Public Utilities Commission, that body is pretty expert — I’m just saying the staff is having the conversations.
Q: But the buck still stops with you.
A: It does. But the debate, the whole thing is carried on at a higher level of generality, and most of these issues are served up to us through staff work. So you asked me what surprised me. That’s something that people probably don’t quite get. But if you’ve been at it long enough, you realize things are shaped not only by events but by the experts working within our modern complex society.
So the politics tend to get off on sidebars: excitements, alarms, scandals, the hot topics or what we call the shiny new objects that can be handled at the relatively simple level at which politics is conducted. So I’m making a point about the democratic system itself. We’re not in Independence Hall with a relatively small number of people in a face-to-face debate. We’re spread over a massive state called California, dependent on a system of interaction between federal and state laws that go into the millions of words, and the people who come and go through our term-limited environment only have a relatively superficial view of what it is they do.
Q: When did you first think about coming back to Sacramento?
A: As governor?
A: Probably when I was (state) attorney general.
Q: So this isn’t some long-range plan you had: First I’ll get elected mayor of Oakland, then I’ll go to attorney general …
A: Well, I certainly thought I’d be running for something — it could have been Senate, it could have been president. But no, when acting as a lawyer to Gov. (Arnold) Schwarzenegger on prison issues (as the attorney general), I decided I had some ideas. Schwarzenegger wanted to approve eight new medical facilities, which I thought weren’t needed. Ultimately we built one, in Stockton. I thought I could play an important role there, not just as the lawyer arguing for the governor’s decisions, but rather by becoming governor and making my own decisions, which I thought would be better.
Q: If you didn’t think they’d be better, you wouldn’t have run for office.
A: That was a very concrete example. I thought that attorney general would probably be my last run. But I found out being a lawyer is not as exciting as being the governor. That’s a very clear experience.
Q: What effect did your eight years as mayor of Oakland have on your idea of how government works and how it should work?
A: Well, more than how government works is how politics works. In Oakland, I would see people show up at City Council and protest almost any project, even relatively low height limits that they thought affected the character of the neighborhood. So, great resistance to change usually argued in terms of grand environmental or quality-of-life issues that I thought were patently misguided, ill-founded and distorted. So that heightened my skepticism about the claims of those who opposed what I thought was the commonsense rejuvenation of Oakland.
Secondly, I saw some of the anti-police, the anti-military school, the anti-charter school. Because in Oakland, a city I could see with my own eyes, I could go down to 51st and Telegraph and look up and see abandoned old savings and loan and it would have been nice to have a five-story condominium there, but the City Council wouldn’t allow it. So they (would) chop off a couple of condos on the top floor and the project failed because it didn’t pencil out. And those were neighbors just blocking, right in the center of a transit corridor.
So I could see that, drive down there not once but many times and remember thinking because I traveled in Paris when I was mayor I would look up at the Boulevard Saint-Germain and you have five stories — I would count the windows and it was five — and it was perfectly fine, absolutely elegant. But people in Oakland didn’t want to go above two. So that to me showed a parochialism and blindness to investment, to appropriate change.
So when I was governor, people would argue about laws — we have a minimum of 1,000 laws every year. The laws are very general. I remember a bill I vetoed for the environmental zoning. It claimed it was environment versus developers. It was, when does a developer get a vested right to his project? When does his application reach a point that the city can’t change it? I remember the developers said we need earlier certainty and the environmentalists said that’s not right, that’s too inflexible. The city ought to retain its rights. Looking back on it, I didn’t really have the experience to really see intelligently what the full implications of that bill would be and therefore to act on it. After I had been in Oakland I got a good sense of how things worked, a more concrete sense.
Q: You can actually see the results of what you do and the results of what the votes are.
A: Also, by having the military school and the art school and by talking to teachers and visiting the campuses and watching the test scores, it’s clear to me that the teacher and the principal are the ones who carry the day. If there is some big problem, the superintendent of schools has to deal with it. And therefore these rules that come out of Sacramento, their creative impact is minimal.
It’s hard for the politico. The Sacramento process is, “There’s a problem. Solve it.” But in fact in some of these fundamental areas, like education, put the money out there, give some guidelines — we have more than guidelines, we have multiple volumes of the Education Code. But there’s a movement, centered in the Democratic Party, to have more and more prescriptive rules governing how a teacher teaches and what they are taught and what the tests are and how you keep them accountable. I think that micromanagement, in many ways, is counterproductive. So I learned that by my own direct experience, which you don’t get from going directly from the secretary of state to governor. You’re at a more remote level. You hear people, different groups. The teachers union says this, the school reformers say that the activist groups say something different. And how do you resolve that? So I’d say the experience is very valuable. That’s why I say there’s no substitute for experience. That’s true.
Q: In one of your veto messages, you famously said not every problem needs a law. Is that something you tried to make clear in your eight years?
A: I did, but not successfully. The Legislature exists, in their minds, to produce more laws. They don’t exist to solve problems, they exist to make laws. Now, they’d like to solve some problems along the way, but the essential functioning of a legislature is lawmaking. And certainly, we have more lawmaking than we did 100 years ago. In fact, I would say we have more lawmaking than in any time in human history. Many of the laws are stupid. Many of them are not warranted. But in order to get along with the Legislature, you got to sign bills that aren’t needed. And you even have to sign bills that you’d prefer not even to have. It’s part of the comity between the executive and legislative branches and being effective. You have to work. It’s a collaborative enterprise. It’s competitive but collaborative.
I would say we have motorized legislation too much. In the criminal field, which I’ve studied intensively, there are over 5,000 separate criminal provisions. And these provisions are constantly churning. There have been over 20 initiatives dealing with criminal law, most of them making it tougher, more draconian, though not all. The Legislature, since I signed the determinate sentencing bill (in 1976), went on a criminal law spree. It didn’t stop until a few years ago. You have interest groups, you have stories in the newspaper, you have competition for the next election. Therefore, you have a great line to exploit problems — more apparent problems — and in so doing, we get increasingly intrusive complex and onerous orders coming out of headquarters in Sacramento.
Q: What you’re saying, then, is there were many times when you signed a bill while shaking your head.
A: Yeah. I mean, you have to sign bills. You don’t have to, but that would maybe make it more difficult to pass other bills that are very important. To sit back and think about it. In order to do that you need years, if not decades, of experience to understand our social and legal environment. Then you need time to reflect on bills. I have probably more than a dozen full-time people just analyzing the work product of the Legislature. And I get 12 days and at the end of the session I get 30 days to analyze these things, and we work full time. And there are issues and there are questions. How in the world can you be on the floor of the Assembly and the Senate and have a couple thousand bills come at you and vote yes or no? You have to depend on what you’re told. Republicans say vote no Democrats say vote, yes, and there will be some individual decisions, but it’s not possible to grasp. Many of the issues are obvious, but a lot of them are not.
The legislative process is totally and radically different from what it’s been historical. Historically, 200 years ago, the courts of common law made most of the rules. Now that’s shifted much more to the legislative branch. Then you get the full-time Legislature, then you get a Legislature with 10 staff members per legislator, and then you get all these problems, and then you get newspaper stories and then you get campaigns. It’s all a machine to generate a lot more laws.
Q: How hard is it to say no to something when you know there’s a real need? I mean for example, back when there was some money all of a sudden and a lot of the legislators said, “Now is the time to put back all the stuff, repair every bit of the safety net and do it now because people are hurting.” In one of your addresses, you said, “Yeah, there are problems, there are problems that we’d like to get done, but we can’t solve everything right now.” How hard is it to say no to something when you know it’s a good idea?
A: You can’t solve everything, ever. I don’t know how hard — it’s not like doing pushups where you have a certain limit. What’s hard is when you’re in conflict and you know if you say “no,” maybe next time they’ll say “no” to you. So this is a give-and-take business. Just like I ask them to do something they don’t want, they get to ask me to do something I don’t want. There is that give and take. It’s just inherent in our process.
Q: But again, everybody said more money would be needed. Pay 100 percent of this or 100 percent of that. An example of that is (universal) preschool, pre-K. That’s something that everybody says, “Wow, this would be great,” but your argument has been that’s adding a whole other grade to the education system …
A: Maybe a couple. Maybe two grades.
Q: And it’s something that once you make that decision, you can never unmake it.
A: Instead of having K-12, we’ll have pre-pre-K, pre-K and then K through 12. That would take another level of taxation that hasn’t occurred yet, and there are no proposals on the table that I know of. That’s not to say you can’t do it for a year or two, but then you’ll fall off the cliff and the money won’t be there.
As everybody knows, we live in a market system that ebbs and flows. And our tax system accentuates the ebbs and the flows. Right now, for the time I’ve been governor, it’s been flowing. In terms of estimates, an $800 billion increase in annual wealth creation. So that’s from $2 trillion to $2.8 trillion. Now that will fall back because the market system is just that way.
When I was at St. Ignatius, Father Clark in our economics class my senior year went to the blackboard and drew a lineup and a line down, up, down. He said, “You know what that is? That’s the business cycle.” And I remember that in about the year 2000 when it was said that we’re in the new economics and we’re not going to have recessions. But that business cycle, when you look at it — and I’ve looked at it carefully as governor; most people don’t — we’ve had 10 recessions and 10 recoveries. We’ve always had a recession after a recovery. And since Father Clark first talked about it in 1955, when he said economists are working to smooth the business cycle, to flatten the business cycle, well, they haven’t succeeded yet, and they’re probably not going to.
Capitalism by its nature overshoots, so if you want to develop Oakland, you will ultimately get to the point where many people are priced out because the price of housing is bid up constantly. It’s true in San Francisco, it’s true in Paris, it’s true in Sydney, Australia. Then, because it gets so high, it will go the other way, and then we go into recession. You got a point where it will go up and people will lose their houses and they’ll say, “Oh come on, do something.” But no government is going to tax most of the people to pay for the other people that have suffered because of the business cycle. That’s just the nature of this beast — it’s up and down, all the time.
So right now we’re at about 4.1 (percent) unemployment. We were at 12. When I was governor the first time, it got up to 10 and the (Assembly) speaker, Leo McCarthy, said, “You got to have a plan. Do something.” So we had a federal jobs program that was going to create maybe 1,000 public-paid jobs. We announced it and put out an executive order about publicly paid jobs. But it’s a fraction of the overall workforce (in California), which even then was 9 or 10 million.
Government plays an important role in many areas. But these big problems, like wealth creation … how is that wealth created? By creating stock, by new apps, innovation. And the winners of all that get enormous sums of money. Well, if all that money is going to the top, there’s going to be less money for those at the bottom, and that’s exactly what we’re seeing. Now, if people want to say we don’t want that, they’re going to have to curb those who are highly successful and not allow them to make as much money and make sure it’s redistributed, either by raising wages or benefits, by curbing salaries and wealth, and that’s not even on the table.
And by the way, it’s not only not on the table in California, but it’s also not on the table in Great Britain or France or Germany or Spain. All these countries that have gone from socialist to conservative — and sometimes they come back a little bit — the socialist party is pretty dead. So I’m not saying that inequality isn’t a worthy goal to deal with, but if you look around the world, Australia has a conservative government, Japan has a conservative government.
There’s a lot of rhetoric about these real problems, and we do alleviate them through child care, by distributing more money to low-income people. But the engine of wealth production is propelling more people at the top to collect more wealth and people at the bottom, because of the cost of housing and other things are struggling. But to change all that is not even on the table of anywhere I know.
Q: Next-to-last question, governor. What are you going to miss about being governor and in connection to that, what aren’t you going to miss?
A: It’s hard to tell. I’m sitting around thinking … “What am I going to not do that I like to do?” It will be different. What do I miss about being mayor? Not too much. I liked being mayor. But I like to change. I liked being attorney general, but I like being governor better. But after being governor for eight years, it can be very nice to do something else. So I’m constantly inventing new things or finding new pathways.
I’ve given this some thought. Not being governor, but having been governor, I can take a very prominent role in the effort to combat climate change, the effort to improve nuclear dialogue with Russia, China, and other countries. These are very important issues, and I think that given my experience and prominence, I will be able to play a role in collaboration with others: the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, the Nuclear Threat Initiative, various climate action efforts. So I’m looking forward to being able to go beyond the mundane of signing bills and making appointments for dealing seriously and collaborating with others throughout the country and throughout the world. I’m working with (former Defense Secretary) William Perry and (former Sen.) Sam Nunn on the nuclear issue and I’ll be working with the United Nations with our summit in San Francisco, and I’ll find ways to work with China and others on things like the introduction of electric cars, we have ours Under Two coalition of states and provinces.
So it isn’t clear yet, but I see a potential for an important role in dealing with the big threats of our times. Another one will be crime and punishment. Both our sentencing and our system of sanctions and punishments are still in great need of enlightened reform, and I will find a way to be part of that. The Cooper initiative (which would make it harder for perpetrators of some violent crimes to win parole) is on the ballot and I have almost $15 million in my campaign account. So I’ve got the means, I’ve got the knowledge and I’ve got the interest to participate at the international, national and state level.
I’ve also got my olive trees to learn how to make proper oil and pick them at the right time and make sure they don’t get diseased. There’s my second harvest, by the way (showing a bottle of olive oil). See, that’s why I have a ranch up there.
Q: What won’t you miss about being governor?
A: What will I not miss? I don’t know. Maybe I’ll miss the mansion. It’s very nice here. I enjoy the activity of the governor’s office. There’s an intellectual excitement, as well as an emotional intensity in dealing with these matters, whether it’s a campaign issue like Proposition 6 or whether it’s a prison reform as in sentencing reform in Prop. 57. Or working with people. It’s a very enthusiastic group. In fact, we had a couple of thousand of them over to the arena. There’s a lot of enthusiasm, there have been a lot of friendships developed.
And certainly I spend a lot of time in the office, whether it’s the mayor’s office in Oakland or the governor’s office, so that becomes part of my life. Now obviously, I’m going to be out there on the range or traveling to Washington without coming back to the mansion or the governor’s office, so that becomes a rather intense form of life. It will be different.
Now, how much of it I will miss, I think that depends on what I’m doing. My current intention is to be doing quite a lot, so chances are I will not be looking back but looking forward to trying to change some things, because we’re on a very dangerous course. Have you read what (Russian President Vladimir) Putin said about the threat to continued human civilization? I think that’s true. Most of the politicians are sound asleep, like the people in World War I. They didn’t see what was coming. But it’s coming at us pretty fast. Nuclear proliferation, new powerful technologies of destruction, the animosity that is spreading throughout the world.
There’s a big need for leaders, both in government and outside of government, to pull back, to find ways of fruitful collaboration, and we’re not there yet. Now those are big problems. The climate … those fires, people are dying, people are getting burned to death. People in the East are being flooded, killed by tornadoes. This is only going to get worse. We’re on the track now to make it worse and worse. And to pull back, to change course, will take a radical change in political understanding and political direction that is not yet on the horizon. That will leave lots of room in the work of waking people up and waking up people in power, and I’m in touch with (House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi, (Sen. Chuck) Schumer and many of those other people.
Q: Last question for you, governor.
A: I’ve got to take that dog out.
Q: You got any advice for the new governor, what he should look for, what you learned that you can let him know?
A: Where would I start? In what field? I don’t like to be so tentative, but if I’m going to give some advice I’d like to think hard about it. He knows a lot of things, so I’d rather be in conversation with him. It’s not like “Hey, Gavin, here’s what I’m saying.” I’d want to talk with him and see what he’s thinking and if he has a question or a point comes to him out of our exchange. But just out of the blue, sending a little missile of advice, that’s not what I want.
Jerry Brown News
Jerry Brown transformed California’s justice system – twice
Published: January 5, 2019
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — One of the advantages of being in government for 50 years, says California Gov. Jerry Brown, is “you get to make mistakes that you then get to correct.”
For Brown, one of those missteps was the criminal justice overhaul he oversaw as a young governor during two terms from 1975 to 1983. Now 80, he leaves office Monday after again reshaping the system during the past eight years.
Get-tough sentencing laws during and after his first stint helped lead to the mass incarceration that crowded state prisons to the bursting point, spurring a federal takeover of many prison operations and a cap on the inmate population. The Democratic governor spent much of his second stint in office reducing criminal penalties and shuffling less-serious offenders to county jails instead of state lockups.
“He has done an immense amount to advance smart approaches to justice,” said Lenore Anderson, founder and executive director of the reform group Californians for Safety and Justice, calling it a “remarkable legacy.”
Brown said one of his biggest mistakes in his first two terms was signing the state’s current sentencing law in 1977, letting judges instead of parole boards decide when most convicts should be released. He said he thought at the time sentencing rules were too uncertain and criminals needed “clear, certain punishment.”
A 1978 study by two University of California, Berkeley law professors called the California sentencing reform an “event of national significance” as it limited parole boards’ “almost awesome freedom” with a “new philosophical approach.”
But it had the unintended consequence of dramatically lengthening prison sentences, particularly after lawmakers added hundreds of enhancements for things like using a gun, being a repeat offender or being involved in a gang while committing the underlying crime.
“It was an enormous social experiment in criminal justice,” recalled San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe, who started in the district attorney’s office the year Brown first took office. “They’ve been saying the same thing about the last seven years. They were saying then, ‘This is an experiment, this is a gamble, and we don’t know how it’s going to work.’”
Brown’s voter-approved 2016 ballot measure helped restore some of the flexibility that was lost 40 years ago by allowing most offenders to seek earlier parole hearings. Critics want to scale back the law with a ballot question in 2020 because they think it’s too lenient. Among Brown’s final acts as governor was to file a lawsuit to try to block the question.
He also reduced criminal penalties and kept lower-level felons in county jails instead of state prisons. Voters separately eased sentences for career criminals, drug users, and petty thieves.
The result is about 25 percent fewer inmates in California prisons.
“California has been a leader in criminal justice reform, in proposing large solutions, but also because it has had large problems,” said Nazgol Ghandnoosh, a senior research analyst at The Sentencing Project, a Washington, D.C.-based reform group.
The state’s longest-serving governor also eclipsed records dating to at least the 1940s in granting pardons and commutations. His 284 commutations are nearly double the number granted by his eight most recent predecessors combined. His 1,736 pardons are more than triple the number issued by his next most prolific modern predecessor, Republican Ronald Reagan, and are 62 times greater than the last three governors combined. One of the highest-profile pardons was of actor Robert Downey Jr. in 2015 for a 1996 drug conviction that sent the actor to prison for nearly a year.
Many of Brown’s changes since retaking office in 2011 were spurred by court orders, but his sister, Kathleen Brown, and niece, Kathleen Kelly, said they spring from the former Jesuit seminarian’s deeply held views that people and society can change for the better.
Kelly said Brown brings the same sense of urgency to criminal justice reform as to his more widely recognized concerns about climate change.
Brown described his thinking in June while addressing an audience devoted to inmate rehabilitation.
“You’re trying to treat people like human beings that other human beings want to treat as animals and objects,” he said. “But I can tell you from a practical point of view, from a public safety point of view, from a religious point of view, what we’re endeavoring to do is the right thing to do.”
Former Gov. Gray Davis, who was Brown’s chief of staff during his first two terms, said Brown also has reflected voters’ changing views.
“Jerry went from a pretty conservative period when people were generally concerned about their public safety to a time when courts were ordering him, without telling him exactly how to do it, to reduce the prison population,” Davis said.
Criminal Justice Legal Foundation president Michael Rushford, who advocates for crime victims, predicts changes by Brown and voters will spark a crime surge.
In Brown’s legislative decisions and judicial appointments, “he’s doubled down,” Rushford said. “He’s done just as much damage as he did the first time around.”
One punishment Brown twice failed to change is executions.
Decades ago, he vetoed a bill restoring the death penalty only to have lawmakers override his decision. He then appointed capital punishment opponents to the state Supreme Court, but voters ousted them.
Dragged by voters and lawsuits, his administration moved to restart executions for the first time since 2006, though legal and practical barriers have pushed the issue to incoming Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom.
Overall, Brown created a culture shift for criminal justice, said Alex Mallick, executive director of the reform group Re: store Justice. She wants other states to follow California’s example.
“Jerry Brown really kind of popularized rehabilitation and the idea that people would get rehabilitated in prison,” Mallick said.