28 California DAs Block Early Releases for Violent Criminals

28 California DAs Block Early Releases for Violent Criminals
Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert speaks during a news conference on in Sacramento, Calif., on Sept. 21, 2018. (Rich Pedroncelli/AP Photo)

Twenty-eight district attorneys across California, including San Diego County’s, have been granted a temporary restraining order to prevent some repeat offenders with serious and violent criminal histories from being released early by the state prison officials, Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office announced on Dec. 29.

The temporary restraining order granted by Sacramento Superior Court Judge Raymond Cadei keeps the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation from increasing good conduct credits from 50 percent to 66 percent for eligible prisoners with nonviolent convictions, including repeat offenders.

“Many of these so-called ‘nonviolent’ second-strikers have long and violent criminal histories—including repeat felony domestic violence convictions, sexual assaults, and gun violence,” said Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert.

According to the corrections department’s website, good conduct credits are awarded to inmates who comply with all prison rules and perform assigned duties regularly, except “those condemned to death or serving sentences of life without the possibility of parole.”

The 66 percent custody credits, including credits awarded without requiring completion of any rehabilitation programs according to the Sacramento district attorney’s announcement, would allow certain inmates to be released after serving a third of their sentences, as opposed to half under the old rules.

Effective Jan. 1, the corrections department’s newest regulations apply to not only inmates working in fire camps but also nonviolent “second-strikers”—those who have one or more convictions prior to their current sentence.

Under California law, “nonviolent” felonies also include apparently violent crimes like human trafficking, rape of an unconscious person, and assault with a deadly weapon, according to a press release issued by the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office.

The temporary restraining order was filed last week by Schubert, whose office was the lead author, and 27 other elected district attorneys seeking to stop the enforcement of this new regulation.

“Releasing these dangerous inmates after serving a small fraction of their sentences not only lacks accountability, it shortens effective rehabilitation, violates victims’ rights, and is a significant threat to public safety,” Schubert said. “No one is contesting good conduct credits for fire camp work, but sneaking in another class of individuals with serious and violent criminal histories goes too far.”

San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan said, “Releasing inmates early who have committed atrocious crimes after only serving a fraction of their sentence threatens the safety of our communities and is a slap in the face to crime victims who are still suffering.

“My fellow District Attorneys and I do not contest good conduct credits for fire camp work, but extending those credits to inmates with serious and violent criminal histories is not in the interest of justice or the public’s safety.”

The corrections department is now reviewing the order and will move forward starting January 2022 with other parts of the credit-earning regulations that were not contested by the order.

In response to the temporary restraining order, the corrections department emphasizes in a statement that its “primary mission is public safety, and as part of that mission we will continue to ensure incarcerated people who are making efforts towards their own rehabilitation by maintaining good behavior and participating in programming and rehabilitative opportunities are afforded the chance to earn credits for their efforts.”

The City News Service contributed to this article.