Judge orders temporary halt in changes to good conduct credits for Calif. inmates

The order will prevent the state from releasing inmates after serving only one-third of their sentences – at least until the next court date


By Sam Stanton
The Sacramento Bee
        
SACRAMENTO — A Sacramento judge on Wednesday ordered state prison officials to hold off on plans to increase the amount of good conduct credits awarded to second-strike inmates that were to take effect Saturday.

The temporary restraining order, which does not apply to good conduct credit changes awarded to inmates in California's fire camps, comes following a filing last week by Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert and 27 other district attorneys seeking a halt to the increase in credits.

The halt remains in place at least until another hearing in Sacramento Superior Court next month, and Schubert said the order will prevent the state from releasing inmates after serving only one-third of their sentences, rather than half under the former rules.

"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," District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert said. (Renee C. Byer/Sacramento Bee/TNS)

"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," Schubert said in a statement. "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.

"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."

A spokeswoman with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

But state officials had argued in court filings that the district attorneys did not have legal standing to bring their complaint and that the changes were merely re-adopting modifications made last May 1 under the voter-approved Proposition 57, which was designed to reduce prison populations.

"The overall effect of the new regulations is to partially advance the release dates of some inmates, contingent upon their good behavior," lawyers for CDCR wrote, adding that good conduct credits give inmates incentives to participate in rehabilitation and work programs.

Schubert's office, which sued earlier this year along with most other California district attorneys to halt the implementation of the May 1 rules, argued that the good conduct credit rules would allow release of violent felons with criminal histories that include domestic violence, animal cruelty and weapons violations.

CDCR's changes sparked criticism when they took effect in May, with critics claiming the rules would shorten sentences for 76,000 violent and serious offenders.

Controversy also stemmed from widespread confusion over how the rules would affect inmate firefighters, who said they suddenly saw their release dates pushed back a year or more under the changes.

CDCR revamped the rules earlier this month to give firefighter inmates more certainty of their expected release dates, and Schubert's office did not challenge that portion of CDCR's good conduct changes.
    
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