More than 40 district attorneys across California have come together to oppose the potential early release of up to 76,000 inmates from state prisons.
On Thursday, the prosecutors filed a petition with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) requesting the repeal of temporary emergency regulations that make some incarcerated people eligible to obtain good behavior credits that would shorten their prison terms.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, “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.”
“Allowing the early release of the most dangerous criminals, shortening sentences as much as 50%, impacts crime victims and creates a serious public safety risk,” said Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert, who is leading the call for repeal. “This 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.”
The changes were approved by California’s Office of Administrative Law and first made public on Friday, April 30, 2021, at 3:00 p.m. The new guidelines took effect the next day, but The Associated Press reported that “it will be months or years until the credits build up enough to make a difference in their prison terms.”
A statement from Schubert’s office says, “the regulations were passed under a claim of an emergency.” But the petition signed by 41 of the state’s 58 district attorneys says the move does not comply with requirements of the Penal Code, which mandates “a description of the underlying facts and an explanation of the operational need to use the emergency rulemaking procedure.” Schubert said by claiming an “emergency,” the state could bypass public comment on the controversial regulations.
“We want public input before they institute these drastic changes,” Schubert told FOX News. “That’s what we’re asking for. There was no emergency. They imposed them on a Friday at three o’clock without any real notice. And now, we just want an opportunity to be heard.”
Schubert said some crime victims and their loved ones were “devastated” when learning of the new regulations.
Dana Simas, a CDCR spokesperson, said the changes resulted from Proposition 57, which voters overwhelmingly approved in 2016. She said the measure gave state officials “the authority to submit regulations and provide additional opportunities for incarcerated people to receive good conduct credits, as allowed by statute.”
Simas previously told The Associated Press that 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,” she added.
A statement from Schubert’s office said: “The administrative law petition is often the first step in seeking a formal court order declaring the regulations unlawful. If the emergency regulations are nullified by a court, CDCR would be forced to pass the regulations in the traditional manner, requiring the State’s Office of Administrative Law to provide greater transparency and public input.”
District Attorney Schubert announced her candidacy for California Attorney General in the 2022 election on April 26, four days before the temporary emergency regulations were made public.
Reform-minded prosecutors like Los Angeles County D.A. George Gascón and San Francisco D.A. Chesa Boudin did not sign Schubert’s petition to repeal.
Related: California Makes 76,000 Inmates, Including Violent And Repeat Felons, Eligible For Early Release In Push To Reduce Prison Population
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