41 CA District Attorneys Oppose Plan for Early Release of 76,000 Inmates: Puts Public at Risk

In this Friday, July 13, 2018 file photo, inmates pass the time within their cell block at the Twin Falls County Jail in Twin Falls, Idaho. In March 2020, the COVID-19 coronavirus and its lingering threat has become a potential “get out of jail card” for inmates who argue it’s …
Pat Sutphin/The Times-News via AP

District Attorneys for jurisdictions all around California are petitioning the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation not to put in place an upgraded good behavior credit system that could result in the release of some 76,000 inmates in state prisons.

Sacramento DA Anne Marie Schubert is spearheading the effort that seeks to repeal temporary emergency regulations.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported on the campaign:

The regulations, which were announced April 30 and went into effect May 1, are part of the state’s plan to continue trimming what was once the country’s largest state correctional system, according to the Associated Press. Under it, more than 63,000 inmates convicted of violent crimes are eligible for good behavior credits that shorten their sentences by one-third, an upgrade from the one-fifth that had been standard since 2017.

The regulations were passed under a “claim of emergency” and would result in the early release of “some of California’s most violent criminals,” according to the statement from Schubert’s office.

The changes were approved by California’s Office of Administrative Law, according to the AP. The department was “granted authority” to make the changes through the rulemaking process and under the current budget. Because they were implemented as “emergency regulations,” CDCR was able to impose them without holding public comment — which angered prosecutors.

CDCR spokesperson Dana Simas said in a statement to AP:

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

The DAs disagree and said “the public will be put at risk.” Schubert said:

Allowing the early release of the most dangerous criminals, shortening sentences as much as 50 percent, impacts crime victims and creates a serious public safety risk. His petition asks CDCR to repeal these regulations, begin the process anew, and allow for transparency and public input. Victims, their families, and all Californians deserve a fair and honest debate about the wisdom of such drastic regulations.

Filing a petition is the first step in the process to seek a formal court order to declare the regulations illegal, according to Schubert’s office.

If the DAs succeed, an order for the CDCR to put the program back in place would require the State’s Office of Administrative Law to oversee the process, which would include public input.

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