CALIFORNIA PAROLE FOR NON-VIOLENT CRIMINALS AND JUVENILE COURT TRIAL REQUIREMENTS INITIATIVE
Proposition 57, also known as the California Parole for Non-violent Criminals and Juvenile Court Trial Requirements, will be on the November 8, 2016 ballot in California as a combined initiated constitutional amendment and state statute.
–What is Proposition 57?
Proposition 57 proposes to:
1) Allow parole consideration for persons convicted of nonviolent felonies, upon completion of prison term for their primary offense as defined.
2) Authorizes Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to award sentence credits for rehabilitation, good behavior, or educational achievements.
3) Requires Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to adopt regulations to implement new parole and sentence credit provisions and certify they enhance public safety.
4) Provides juvenile court judges shall make determination, upon prosecutor motion, whether juvenile age 14 and older should be prosecuted and sentenced as adults for specified offenses.
A “yes” vote supports increasing parole and good behavior opportunities for felons convicted of nonviolent crimes and allowing judges, not prosecutors, to decide whether to try certain juveniles as adults in court.
A “no” vote would keep the current system as it is. That would mean that there would be no increasing parole and good behavior opportunities for felons convicted of nonviolent crimes, and prosecutors would retain the ability to decide whether to try certain juveniles as adults in court.
–-How would the inmate releases work?
Those convicted of non-violent felony crimes who have served their basic sentences and passes screening for public security would be eligible for parole. Proposition 57 would allow inmates to earn credits for good behavior, and educational or rehabilitative achievements. This would give inmates an incentive to rehabilitate while serving time.
–So What Does This All Mean?
What Proposition 57 does is allow early release of nonviolent criminals (Violent crimes are defined in California PC 667.5) after they serve the base term of their sentence, at the discretion of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation would also be able to award sentence credits for rehabilitation, good behavior, or educational achievements.
In a nutshell, what that means is that after a nonviolent criminal serves his base term (sentence from the underlying charge), he is eligible for parole with disregard to any additional time added by enhancements (i.e. gun enhancements, gang enhancements, prison priors, and strikes). The DCR has discretion on awarding sentence credits for good behavior, rehabilitation, and educational achievements. The DCR’s discretion will be tempered with regulations that implement new parole and sentence credit provisions, which will have to be certified as enhancing public safety. Again, Proposition 57 is limited to nonviolent felonies. Violent felonies will still be sentenced per the norm currently.
Who Supports Proposition 57?
Governor Brown and his administration supports Proposition 57, as well as the defense attorneys.
Who Opposes Proposition 57?
Groups who oppose Proposition 57 are law enforcement and prosecutors.
How We Weigh In
Generally, our office strives to be political neutral, and therefore, do not take a position on Proposition 57. However, when you consider a “Yes” or “No” vote, consider this:
- Proposition 57 applies to only nonviolent crimes. Nonviolent crimes always involve determinate sentences, which means that eventually, a nonviolent criminal will be released back into society. Proposition 57 incentives good behavior, rehabilitation, and education achievements, by awarding sentence credits for such behavior. At the same time, bad behavior will result in sentence credits being taken away. Therefore, nonviolent criminals will be motivated to rehabilitate to make positive results in their life so that they will not re-offend. This will result in less offenders re-offending. Also, keep in mind that nonviolent criminals serve prison terms in jail. Criminals that are actually serving their term in prison are by definition violent, and therefore do not receive any benefit from Proposition 57, and twill be required to serve the full time they were sentenced to (i.e. base term and enhancement).
- On the downside, there is a risk that criminals subject to Proposition 57 who have the opportunity to parole early, although nonviolent, may re-offend again, which will cause an increase in crime. Therefore, more supervision of nonviolent criminals released pursuant to Proposition 57 will be necessary to protect society and enhance public safety.
- However, California’s philosophy with respect to crime and punishment, is based on the ideology of rehabilitation as opposed to punishment. In that spirit, Proposition 57 proposes to make that ideology a reality, although admittedly, until Proposition 57 is implemented, it will be hard to determine what the impact will be on society as a whole
However you vote, keep in mind that your vote will impact the lives of many people in the jail and prison system greatly. If you believe in rehabilitation, Proposition 57 is the best bet in achieving that goal. However, if you subscribe to the concept that jail and prison is meant to punish certain actions of individuals, then No on Proposition 57 will be the proper response. Regardless of how you vote, please take the time to vote on this issue, and make your voice heard. Proposition 57 will drastically change the landscape of criminal law in California. Please keep that in mind as you vote. Also keep in mind that Proposition 57 is designed to combat mandatory minimums, and that Proposition 57 proposes to take away discretion for sentencing away from the prosecutor and into the hands of the judge at sentencing, and to the CDR on the implementation of said sentence. Also keep in mind that Proposition 57 will give discretion for treating juveniles as an adult in certain cases to the judge. Currently, it is at the discretion of the prosecutor. Clearly, Proposition 57 takes away a lot of power from prosecutors. It is very likely that because of this reason, prosecutors in California are against this Proposition.
Either way you vote, please vote, and have your voice heard!
–Philip Young Sik Cho
Attorney at Law
Law Office of Jeffery K. Rubenstein