76,000 California Violent, Repeat Felons Get Earlier Releases

California is making a move

California gave 76,000 inmates a chance to leave prison cells earlier as they try to cut the population of what once was the biggest state correctional system in the nation.

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Over 63,000 violent criminals will be eligible for good behavior credits that cut their sentence by one-third instead of the one-fifth reduction that was set in place in 2017. The new change includes about 20,000 inmates who serve life sentences with the possibility of parole.

The new rule will take effect Saturday but it will be several months and even years before inmates go free earlier. Corrections officials say they will reward inmates who became better people. According to critics, the move will endanger the general public.

Over 10,000 prisoners convicted of a second serious but nonviolent offense under California’s “three strikes” law will be freed after serving half of the sentence.

The same measure applies to at least 2,900 nonviolent third strikers as projected by the corrections department.

All minimum-security inmates in work camps and those in firefighting camps will be eligible for the same month of earlier release for every month they had spent in the camp. The release won’t depend on the severity of their crime.

California’s Office of Administrative Law approved the change this week.

“The goal is to increase incentives for the incarcerated population to practice good behavior and follow the rules while serving their time, and participate in rehabilitative and educational programs, which will lead to safer prisons,” department spokeswoman Dana Simas said in a statement.

“Additionally, these changes would help to reduce the prison population by allowing incarcerated persons to earn their way home sooner,” she said.

Simas said they have provided the emergency regulations and estimates of how some prisoners they will affect. The department has the authority to make changes in the rulemaking process and under the available budget. These became “emergency regulations” and the agency can now make new rules without public comment.

Permanent regulations will be submitted next week. Public hearing and public comment seem like an option at the moment.

Kent Scheidegger legal director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation that stands for crime victims shares a different side of the story.

“You don’t have to be good to get good time credits. People who lose good-time credits for misconduct get them back, they don’t stay gone,” he said. “They could be a useful device for managing the population if they had more teeth in them. But they don’t. They’re in reality just a giveaway.”

Republican state Sen. Jim Nielsen criticized the work of Gov. Gavin Newsom and his decision to make the changes.

“He’s doing it on his own authority, instead of the will of the people through their elected representatives or directly through their own votes,” Nielsen said. “This is what I call Newsom’s time off for bad behavior. He’s putting us all at greater risk and there seems to be no end to the degree to which he wants to do that.”

California has to cut the prison population. It reached 160,000 in 2006 and inmates had to be housed in gymnasiums and activity rooms. In 2011, the US Supreme Court supported the requirement of federal judges. The state had to reduce overcrowding.

The prison population has seen a decline. Lower-level felons were kept in county jails instead of state prisons. In 2014, voters cut penalties for property and drug crimes. In 2016, voters allowed earlier parole for inmates.

Before the global pandemic, the prison population dropped to 117,000. In 2020, 21,000 more inmates left state prisons and half were held temporarily in county jails.

Officials said they will close a second prison and this sort of fulfills Newsom’s promise.

California Correctional Center in Susanville will be closed by July 2022. Deuel Vocational Institution in Tracy, east of San Francisco, is close by October.

Democratic lawmakers and several advocacy groups call for more releases and shorter sentences. Californians United for a Responsible Budget said California should close 10 of its 35 facilities.

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Source: The Epoch Times

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