PROPOSITION 57: HOW IT WORKS

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PROPOSITION 57: THE PUBLIC SAFETY AND REHABILITATION ACT
INTRODUCTION
Many people have called us about Proposition 57, how it works, and who qualifies. As a result, we have decided to cover this topic to hopefully enlighten and inform you about the law and what we anticipate it will look like in action. Below is what we know at this point. Guidelines still have to be drafted by the CDC, so until that is done, there is no mechanism to apply for early parole via Proposition 57 as of yet. Once those guidelines are created and approved of by Governor Brown and the parole board in Sacramento, then will they start accepting applications for early parole via Proposition 57.
In November 2016, Proposition 57 was passed by the people of California. The language relating to adult sentencing:
Section 32 is added to Article I of the California Constitution to read:
(a)    The following provisions are hereby enacted to enhance public safety, improve rehabilitation, and avoid the release of prisoners by federal court order, notwithstanding anything in this article or any other provision of law:
(1)    Parole consideration: Any person convicted of a non-violent felony offense and sentenced to state prison shall be eligible for parole consideration after completing the full term for his or her primary offense.
(A)    For purposes of this section only, the full term for the primary offense means the longest term of imprisonment imposed by the court for any offense, excluding the imposition of an enhancement, consecutive sentence, or alternative sentence.
(2)    Credit Earning: The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation shall have authority to award credits earned for good behavior and approved rehabilitative or educational achievements.
(b)    The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation shall adopt regulations in furtherance of these provisions, and the Secretary of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation shall certify that these regulations protect and enhance public safety.
The three main PSRA provisions are as follows:
For Adults: 1. Parole Eligibility Changes; and 2. Credit Awards Changes
For Juveniles: 3. Direct Filing Eliminated.
               The Direct Results of Proposition 57 are:
  1. Offenders who commit multiple crimes against multiple victims will be eligible for release at the same time as offenders who only committed a single crime against a single victim.
  2. Repeat offenders will be eligible for release after the same period of incarceration as first time offenders.
  3. Offenders whose sentence will be especially egregious conduct will be eligible for release at the same time as those who did not engage in the egregious conduct.
  4. CDCR will have unlimited authority to award credits to all inmates, in excess of the current 15%, 20%, AND 50% conduct credit limitations.
  5. Juvenile offenders who commit violent crimes like murder, rape and carjacking cannot be file on as adults. They must be filed on in juvenile court and can only be found unfit by a judge.
This article will focus on changes to adult sentencing.
WHAT PROPOSITION 57 MEANS
The most important provision relates to parole consideration: (1) Any person convicted of a non-violent felony offense and sentenced to state prison shall be eligible for parole consideration after completing the full term for his or her primary offense. The full term for the primary offense means the longest term of imprisonment imposed by the court for any offense, excluding the imposition of an enhancement, consecutive sentence, or alternative sentence.
California PC 667.5 defines what “violent felonies” are and what “non-violent” felonies are. “Violent felonies” per P.C. 667.5 include: murder, attempted murder, voluntary manslaughter, mayhem, forcible sex offenses, rape in concert, robbery, arson, kidnapping, carjacking, certain gang offenses, first degree burglary where victim is present, any felony punishable by death or life in prison, any felony where D inflicts GBI, and any felony in which a gun is “used.”
Not “Violent” felonies include: ADW-deadly weapon and force likely [245(a)(1) and 245(A)(4)], Battery with Serious Bodily Injury [243(d)], Solicitation to Commit Murder [653f(b)], domestic violence [273.5], inflicting corporal injury on a child [PC 273d], first degree burglary [PC 459], rape/sodomy/oral copulation of unconscious person or by use of date rape drugs [261(a)(3) and (4), 286(f), 288a(f)], human trafficking involving a minor [PC236.1(C)], hate crimes [PC 422.7], arson of forest land [PC 451(c)] causing physical injury, assault w/ deadly weapon on Peace officer [245(c)], active participation in a street gang [186.22], and exploding destructive device w/ intent to cause injury [18740].
2)      Credit Earning: The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation shall have authority to award credits earned for good behavior and approved rehabilitative or educational achievements. This separate subsection contains no such limiting language and therefore applies to all felonies. This provision gives CDCR authority to award credits in addition to those already authorized by law, and places no limitations on the amount of credits that shall be awarded.
The pool of inmates newly eligible for parole – about 1,200 offenders – is expected to expand by more than 500 over the next fiscal year. Early projections show more than 1,500 inmates could be eligible for early release by 2021.
GUIDELINES
Under the regulations, inmates will be able to trim their sentences up to six months for earning a high school diploma or college degree, and up to a month each year for successfully completing self-help programs – such as substance abuse support groups, counseling and parenting or anger management classes.
They will also have the chance to earn greater “milestone” credits, awarded for achieving certain goals in certain rehabilitation programs, allowing them to potentially reduce their sentences by up to 12 weeks in a yearlong period.
However, the regulations could face scrutiny from law enforcement officials and prosecutors. They have argued its incentives should not be extended to sex offenders or those serving life sentences. The debate has caused several lawmakers to introduce legislation that would expand the state’s list of violent crimes. The regulations unveiled recently exclude only death row inmates and those who are serving life without the possibility of parole from the credit earnings. Violent offenders could receive up to 20% of time served for good behavior, up from 15% in previous guidelines.
The rules are expected to receive final approval in the fall after a public comment period. If they win initial approval from state regulators, changes to the credit system will begin as early as May, while the parole eligibility changes will take effect in July.
Probation officials and criminal justice advocates lauded the guidelines as “fair and consistent with the mission of Prop 57.”
–Philip Young Sik Cho
Associate Attorney

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