Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin Thursday joined top prosecutors from 40 other counties in publicly calling for the state to abandon a plan to add credits to the sentences of 76,000 prisoners, potentially wiping a third or more of the time off their sentences, permitting them to be released early.
“Releasing dangerous and violent felons into our communities by reducing their sentences by as much as 50% puts the public in danger,” Hestrin said. “This petition asks the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to repeal these regulations and rethink their approach. Specifically, victims and their families deserve to be heard on how these regulations might affect them and public safety in general.”
In their five-page petition, the district attorneys criticize CDCR Secretary Kathleen Allison’s declaration last month of an emergency under Penal Code section 5058.3 in order to turn the 76,000 inmates’ into candidates for good time credits based on their behavior while incarcerated and participation in rehabilitation programs.
The CDCR said the prosecutors’ letter is under review, and agency representative Dana Simas told City News Service that the emergency regulatory change announced by the agency complies with voter-approved Proposition 57 from 2016.
“It gave CDCR the authority to submit regulations to provide opportunities for incarcerated people to receive `good conduct credits,”’ Simas said.
Officials previously said use of the Penal Code provision establishing “minimum security credit” and “inmate credit earning” is based on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s 2020-21 fiscal year budget priorities.
Simas denied there would be automatic early release of any prisoner.
Hestrin and the 40 other DAs allege the agency is acting outside the scope of what’s permitted under the emergency procedures enshrined in state law.
According to the prosecutors, under the Government Code, and particularly the California Administrative Procedure Act, CDCR is required to provide public noticing and a comment period, of at least 45 days, prior to moving ahead with an operational change as significant as the one on the table.
Simas replied that a public comment period is planned, but there were no specifics on when it might begin and end.
The district attorneys further argue that there are “no underlying facts (or) an explanation” clearly stating why the movement of the inmates into a credit-earning program falls into the category of an “emergency.”
There was no word on what portion of the 76,000 inmates is from Riverside County.