We the People — Part 8

“No man is good enough to govern another man without that other man’s consent.
~Abraham Lincoln

By Alden Benton

California prisons are under siege from overcrowding and a federal court order to reduce that overcrowding.  The federal court said medical and psychiatric care was substandard and deemed it as cruel and unusual punishment under Amendment 8 of the United States Constitution.  The court also said that overcrowding is the direct cause of substandard care.

Proposition 57 makes changes to the parole and sentencing system for adults in order to reduce prison overcrowding.  This proposal also makes changes on deciding whether to try a juvenile in juvenile or adult court.

If approved, this measure makes those convicted of non-violent felonies eligible for parole.  Individuals are eligible for parole only after they have served the full term of their primary offense.  A primary offense usually is the crime with the longest sentence in the case of multiple convictions. 

In California law, there is no definition of non-violent felonies and there is no definition of them in Proposition 57.

According to the California Legislative Analyst,

“As of September 2015, there were about 30,000 individuals in state prison who would be affected by the parole consideration provisions of the measure.  In addition, about 7,500 of the individuals admitted to state prison each year would be eligible for parole consideration under the measure.”

Currently, individuals affected by Proposition 57 serve an average of two years in prison.  This proposal would reduce that average to an estimated 1.5 years.

California law now allows the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to award credits to inmates to reduce their sentences.  These credits are for good behavior, participating in work, training, education programs, or approved rehabilitative achievements.  Proposition 57 continues the credit program.

Currently, credits are limited to reducing sentences by 15%.  This measure gives the CDCR the authority to establish rules that may increase the amount of credits earned, further reducing the sentences of non-violent offenders.

Proposition 57 requires a hearing before a juvenile court judge to determine whether a youth is tried in adult or juvenile court.

According to the California Legislative Analyst,

“Youths accused of committing certain severe crimes would no longer automatically be tried in adult court and no youth could be tried in adult court based only on the decision of a prosecutor.

In addition, the measure specifies that prosecutors can only seek transfer hearings for youths accused of (1) committing certain significant crimes listed in state law (such as murder, robbery, and certain sex offenses) when they were age 14 or 15 or (2) committing a felony when they were 16 or 17.”

Proposition 57 would save money due to early release of prisoners, but those savings are offset by increased costs of parole supervision.  The counties could face increased costs for probation supervision.

The proposed changes in the juvenile justice system would increase costs for housing juvenile offenders, but save in state court costs.  County costs would increase as the counties pay part of the cost of housing juvenile offenders to the state.  Additionally, probation costs for the counties could increase.  Since juvenile court proceedings are shorter, counties may save costs.

© 2016 A. L. Benton/Independence Creek Enterprises
All Rights Reserved
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