The planned early release of 76,000 inmates from California prisons is a big meal not well digested by prosecutors across the state.
“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,” says Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert.
She and 40 other prosecutors were so incensed by the new rules (which took effect May 1) that will allow the early releases they filed a petition with the Secretary of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. They’re requesting, the San Francisco Chronicle reports, a repeal of the temporary emergency regulations “that could potentially lead to their early release.”
According to the Associated Press, inmates eligible to use good-behavior credits to shorten their prison time include both violent and repeat offenders. Their terms will be cut by one-third of their original sentences. In the previous four years, good-behavior credits could not be used to reduce prison terms by more than one-fifth.
As many as 63,000 of those who will be considered for early release are serving time for violent crimes; 2,000 are serving life sentences with the possibility of parole.
All eligible inmates won’t be released at the same time, of course. Not even California would do that. And some might deserve the break they’re going to get.
But it’s not hard to imagine, with California’s recidivism rate of 66% for “felony offenders rearrested for any offense within two years,” that for many, early release will be nothing more than an opportunity to pick up where they left off. Let’s take a look at recent headlines and see what kind of environment the inmates will be released into:
- California Crime Bill Would Make Some Robberies A Misdemeanor
- LAPD: Shootings in LA Increase 73% During First Four Months of 2021
- After deadliest day of 2021, Oakland reels from gun violence
- ‘Out of control’: Organized crime drives S.F. shoplifting, closing 17 Walgreens in five years
- California’s Major Cities See Increases in Homicides and Car Thefts
- New Study Reveals Increase In Hate Crimes Targeting Asian Americans In LA
- Region’s homicides spike 35 percent, property crime hits 41-year low
- Homicides Surge in California Amid Covid Shutdowns of Schools, Youth Programs
And of course there’s the campaign to starve law enforcement of resources:
- Los Angeles voters just delivered a huge win for the defund the police movement
- Los Angeles cuts LAPD spending, taking police staffing to its lowest level in 12 years
- ‘Defund the police’ in action: How four Bay Area cities are (or aren’t) reforming their police
- San Francisco Mayor London Breed announces cuts to police in new city budget
- Under Pressure, City Agrees to Drop $2 Million in New Police Station Funding
Not all prosecutors are on board with the 41 who petitioned the corrections department. The names of San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin and Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón could not be found on the list. But then they are the “progressive” prosecutors facing recall efforts.
Boudin entered office promising to ignore crimes he didn’t believe were serious enough to prosecute – and kept that promise – and pledged to end mass incarceration. Gascón announced right away upon taking office he would no longer seek cash bail for certain offenses, nor charge juveniles as adults, and would never pursue the death penalty. He also said his prosecutors wouldn’t ask for extended sentences in gang-related cases, against those who used firearms in the commission of crimes, or for those facing longer prison terms under the state’s Three Strikes Law.
So no one would expect them to oppose a wholesale inmate release. It’s part of their playbook.
Kerry Jackson is the author of Living in Fear in California and is a fellow with the Center for California Reform at the Pacific Research Institute.