On November 8, 2016, California voters passed Proposition 57, The Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 201, by an overwhelming majority of 64%. This proposition contained two key provisions:
1) It makes certain non-violent felons eligible for immediate parole and
2) It requires a court hearing before a juvenile can be tried in adult court.
Today, I will discuss the first of these provisions.
Those inmates who are incarcerated for non-violent felonies and have completed the full term for his or her primary offense will be eligible for parole consideration under Proposition 57. It is estimated that this will affect thousands, if not tens of thousands, of inmates. Essentially, this is an early release program for non-violent offenders.
One of the primary motives for this proposition is to reduce the prison population, which in California is so severely over-populated that the United States Supreme Court in the case Brown v. Plata (2011) 563 U.S. 493 ruled violated the prisoners’ Eighth Amendment rights against cruel and unusual punishment. The proponents of Proposition 57 anticipate that the new law will relieve the overcrowding in our state prison system and ultimately save taxpayer money. The opponents fear that dangerous felons will be released, that the state will see increased crime, and that the proposition sends the wrong message to criminals.
Under Proposition 57, eligible inmates are not automatically released, or even entitled to be released. Rather the inmate must demonstrate that he or she is rehabilitated and will not pose a danger to the public. The Board of Parole Hearings will review each individual case and decide whether to grant the early parole. Those individuals who are granted a release under Prop 57 will be subject to mandatory supervision. The proposition does not define what that supervision will entail, whether it is supervision by State Parole or county probation officers.
The language of the Proposition doesn’t provide much in the way of procedural guidelines. Presumably, it will be the task of prison officials to identify those inmates who may be eligible. The proposition also fails to identify what is a non-violent felony but most likely, the definition will fall back on the offenses that are not listed in Penal Code 667.5(c), which identifies violent felonies under California law. This list includes the obvious crimes of murder and rape or attempts to commit those crimes and also, crimes such as mayhem, most sex crimes, injurious assaults, robbery, arson, kidnapping, threats of violence, and other crimes, would not be eligible for early release under Proposition 57. We can anticipate that many of the eligible inmates will be those who were convicted of non-violent drug sales offenses and white collar crimes.
With almost 25 years experience in criminal defense, William Weinberg is available to consult with you regarding any criminal matter. You can reach him at his Irvine office at 949-474-8008 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.