Sacramento, CA

76,000 California Inmates Are Eligible for Early Release

Synthia Stark

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In Sacramento, California, early release credits are increasing for 76,000 inmates — including those who are repeat and violent felons and offenders. Apparently, California state wants to trim the population of America’s largest state correctional system. 

Thus, over 63,000 inmates who have committed some sort of misdeed, will be eligible for good behaviour credits that will shorten their sentences by one-third instead of one-fifth, a number that was established back in 2017.

This would include nearly 20,000 inmates who are serving life sentences that have the possibility of parole.

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California state has a “three-strikes” law. As mentioned on the California Courts website:

“California’s Three Strikes sentencing law was originally enacted in 1994. The essence of the Three Strikes law was to require a defendant convicted of any new felony, having suffered one prior conviction of a serious felony to be sentenced to state prison for twice the term otherwise provided for the crime. If the defendant was convicted of any felony with two or more prior strikes, the law mandated a state prison term of at least 25 years to life.”

Thus, more than 10,000 inmates who are convicted of a second serious but non-violent offense may be eligible for release after serving at least half of their sentences. This is an increase from the current time-served credit.

According to the projections from California’s corrections department, this increased release time will also apply to almost 2900 non-violent third strikers.

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In addition, all minimum-security inmates in work camps, including the ones in the firefighting camps, will be eligible for the same month of earlier release for each month they spend in the camp. 

For example, if we take a look at the web page of the Conservation (Fire) Camps for California’s department of corrections, the website states the following:

“The primary mission of the Conservation Camp Program is to support state, local and federal government agencies as they respond to emergencies such as fires, floods, and other natural or manmade disasters.”

The website also states:

“CDCR is responsible for the selection, supervision, care and discipline of the inmates. CAL FIRE maintains the camp, supervises the work of the inmate fire crews, and is responsible for inmate custody while on daily grade projects. CDCR staff often accompany inmate fire crews on out-of-county assignments, or on local assignments located near residential areas. Inmates are directly supervised 24 hours per day while on work projects and while assigned to emergencies. In addition to fires, crews may be assigned to rescue efforts in local parks, and are also eligible to respond for flood suppression.”

The state Office of Administrative Law approved these changes to the law, which have likely ruffled some feathers. They were submitted and approved this notion within the span of three weeks as emergency regulations.

Their website even states the following:

“The Office of Administrative Law (OAL) ensures that agency regulations are clear, necessary, legally valid, and available to the public. OAL is responsible for reviewing administrative regulations proposed by over 200 state agencies for compliance with the standards set forth in California’s Administrative Procedure Act (APA), for transmitting these regulations to the Secretary of State and for publishing regulations in the California Code of Regulations.”

It seems that the purpose of the law is to increase the chances for the incarcerated to practice good behavior, while also making sure that they follow the right rules during their sentences.

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In return, they would enter and participate in educational and rehabilitative programs, leading to a safer prison situation. Finally, these changes would bring upon drastic reductions in the prison population by allowing them to get back home. 

Prior to current world events, the inmate population dropped by over 21,000 from the 117,000 in-state prisons, but this also took into account that at least 10,000 of these inmates were temporarily held at the county jails too. Plus, back in mid-April, there was a promise to close a second prison due to the dwindling prison population.

It is estimated that by July 2022, the California Correctional Center in Susanville will close. It is also known that the Deuel Vocational Institution in Tracy, which is east of San Francisco, will close by October 2021.

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Regardless, these emergency and temporary regulations will take effect on Saturday. For more permanent regulations, the department will have to submit paperwork each and every year, which will allow for public comment through a public hearing process.

Many lawmakers and advocacy groups have been calling for shorter sentences or further releases. It’s fascinating that this is happening in California. The people of Sacramento, California deserve to learn more about their population, including the laws affiliated with the area.

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