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District Attorney’s Opposition to Early Prison Releases


PROPOSITION 57 EARLY PRISON RELEASE

The District Attorney's Office wants to inform the public about dangerous criminals the State of California is currently considering for release from prison under Proposition 57. Proposition 57 amended the California Constitution and allows for the early release from prison of criminals who may have served as little as 16 months of a sentence of more than 20 years. Regardless of the violent or prolific criminal history of an inmate, he or she is eligible for release after serving just a fraction of his/her sentence if the current commitment offense is not for a crime the state characterizes as a violent offense. Assault with a deadly weapon, domestic violence and lewd acts committed upon a minor under the age of 14 are among the dangerous crimes that are not considered violent by the State. Even a convicted murderer is automatically eligible for early release from incarceration on a subsequent conviction for assault with a deadly weapon. Judges always consider the criminal history of defendants when imposing sentence and routinely impose enhanced sentences on criminals who have previously been to prison. Proposition 57 allows for the release of these criminals prior to serving the enhanced sentences imposed by the judge.

Victims, police and prosecutors are allowed less than 30 days to lodge written opposition to the early release of inmates, are not provided with any information about whether the inmate has been violent while in prison, and are not allowed to personally appear to object to release. Indeed, there is no formal hearing at which the inmate and a representative of law enforcement appears to address the question of early release. An appointed individual simply reviews the inmate's file and makes a decision to grant early release or not. If an inmate is granted early release, the prosecution has no right to appeal, however, if early release is denied, the inmate may appeal. Ventura County District Attorney Greg Totten outlined his objections to the Proposition 57 regulations in a letter to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (click here). Below are links to letters from District Attorney Totten to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation opposing early release and describing the conduct and criminal histories of the criminals seeking early release.

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EARLY RELEASE OF SECOND STRIKER INMATES

In 2015, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation began reviewing inmates, many with violent histories who had suffered at least two and often many more felony convictions, for early parole consideration in an attempt to reduce California's prison population. These second-strikers are now eligible to be released on parole after they have served only 50 percent of their sentence or are within 12 months of having served 50 percent of their sentence. If the Board of Prison Hearings determines a second-strike inmate would not pose an unreasonable risk to public safety, the inmate is released. The Ventura County District Attorney's Office opposes the early release of these "second-strike" inmates because they have not served their full sentence and their release jeopardizes public safety. Our letters (see links below) to the Board of Prison Hearings in opposition to release provide an overview of the commitment offense and the inmate's criminal history, demonstrating that an inmate's early release poses an unreasonable risk to the public. Many of these inmates who have been released early have violent and lengthy criminal histories. Below are letters that District Attorney Totten sent to the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation opposing release of the inmate discussed in the letter. Each of the these inmates were subsequently released:

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