California corrections officials announced on Friday that a new sentencing rule in place aims to cut the state prison population after four years.
A lot of people have commented to ABC10 and are wondering what this actually means. Let's break it down in five separate categories as to what's going on, who this affects and etc.
This move comes down to the approval of Proposition 57.
Prop 57 was a ballot measure in November 2016 where people voted by a wide margin (64 percent to 35 percent ) to change certain rules and regulations within the California prison systems.
What's labeled as 'The Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016' includes:
- Preventing federal courts from indiscriminately releasing prisoners.
- Requiring judges rather than prosecutors to determine whether certain juvenile crimes should be tried in juvenile or adult court.
- Establishing a process of parole consideration for non-violent offenders who've served their full primary offense sentence and demonstrate they'll no longer be a "current threat" to public safety.
- Gives inmates "credit-earning" opportunities for good behavior, participation, educational or career advances and other things - keeps them on the right path to succeed and less likely to commit a new crime within the prison.
These main components of Prop 57 are efforts to focus on the emphasis of rehabilitation and stop a revolving door of crime.
2. Credit system
So, what are some of the specific regulations being added?
The main regulation is the credit earning system, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) The system of credits is set up for inmates to take responsibility for their own rehabilitation. There are four separate types of credits.
To earn good conduct credits the inmates must comply with the prison rules and perform duties they're assigned.
For milestone completion credits, an inmate can earn them when they complete a specific education or career training program that's also attached to attendance and performance requirements. Prop 57 increases the amount of time an inmate can earn for these types of credits from six to 12 weeks per year.
Rehabilitative Achievement Credits are where inmates can participate in approved self-help groups or other activities promoting the rehabilitating or positive behavioral changes in an inmate. Inmates are able to earn up to four weeks of these credits annually.
The last are Educational Merit Credits where inmates who successfully complete and achieve a GED, high school diploma, college degree or alcohol and drug counseling certifications. For each level of achievement, a one-time credit is awarded during that inmate's current sentence.
These credits can also be earned to advance an initial parole hearing date.
Credits can be taken away from inmates for breaking prison rules, but they do have the right to appeal revoking of credits and those credits could be given back barring a disciplinary reversal involving an administration appeal or court action.
One important thing to remember is that, condemned inmates and inmates sentenced to life without the possibility of parole are excluded from any credit-earning.
3. The number of inmates being released
Officials say that the plan is to release nearly 9.500 inmates in the next four years, according to California Corrections.
4. Overcrowding and Federal Court order
When it comes to California prisons there's been an ongoing debate about its overcrowding.
The prison system is under a Federal court order right now that says they must be below the federal cap.
As of March 8, 2017 California is at 134.3 percent which is below the federal court population cap, according to Vicky Waters, press secretary for the CDCR.
The federal cap is 137.5. and as of mid-March, the CDCR was about 1,500 inmates under the cap.
In order to stay below, the CDCR has used a myriad of measures that includes adding bed and programming space and building the new California Health Care Facility in Stockton.
5. What happens next?
Well, the aforementioned juvenile justice provisions have already gone into effect.
The CDCR's, with the Office of Administration Law (OAL), written regulations to change the way good conduct credits are given to inmates starts on May 1, 2017.
The expanding parole consideration process for non-violent offenders starts on July 1, 2017.
The Rehabilitative Achievement, and Educational Merit credits are said to be expected to start later in the year on August 1, 2017.