California is giving 76,000 inmates, including violent and repeat felons, an early release from prison for no other reason than to reduce the prison population. That’s an awful lot of criminals to be handed a get-out-of-jail-free card.
You might be able to make a case for releasing nonviolent criminals but felons who have committed violent crimes and repeat offenders will benefit as well.
63,000 of those inmates to be released committed violent crimes. They will now get 1/3 of their sentence reduced instead of the usual 1/5. It goes into effect on Saturday and it will be months or years before most releases will occur.
Also, as of Saturday, all minimum-security inmates in work camps, including those in firefighting camps will get their sentences reduced for a month for every month they work.
Department spokeswoman Dana Simas said:
“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.”
Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation said:
“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. 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.”
Sen. Jim Nielsen added:
“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. 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 been under court orders to reduce a prison population that peaked at 160,000 in 2006 and saw inmates being housed in gymnasiums and activity rooms. In 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court backed federal judges’ requirement that the state reduce overcrowding.
The population has been declining since the high court’s decision, starting when the state began keeping lower-level felons in county jails instead of state prisons. In 2014, voters reduced penalties for property and drug crimes. Two years later, voters approved allowing earlier parole for most inmates.