SACRAMENTO – Today, legislative Republicans, in a letter signed by all 27 Republican Senators and Assemblymembers, called on the Newsom administration to withdraw its early release proposal that will triple the amount of time some inmates are able to earn off their sentences and result in violent felons being released after serving less than half their original sentences.
“Californians deserve to feel safe, but the Newsom administration’s habit of prioritizing criminals is putting our communities at risk,” said Assembly Republican Leader James Gallagher (Yuba City). “Slashing sentences for violent, unrehabilitated felons is flat-out dangerous and it needs to stop.”
The letter highlighted spiking crime throughout California, as well as the case of Smiley Martin, who was released from prison in February after serving less than half a 10-year sentence for brutally assaulting his girlfriend. Barely a month after his release, Martin was arrested as a suspect in the Sacramento gang shootout that left six people dead just a block from the state Capitol.
Despite repeated requests, not a single Democrat signed the letter opposing this early release expansion.
The signed letter is available here.
RE: DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS AND REHABILITATION EARLY RELEASE REGULATIONS
Dear Governor Newsom:
The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has pending regulations (NCR 22-03)1 to make their emergency
regulations expanding early release credits for inmates permanent. Among other things, the proposed regulations would
permit inmates serving a term for a “violent” felony2 to earn up to 33% off their sentence, up from 20% under the prior regulations and more than the 15% maximum permitted by statute. Inmates sentenced under the Three Strikes law who
are serving a sentence that is not a violent felony could earn up to 66% off their sentence, up from the 50% maximum
permitted under the prior regulations and the 20% permitted by statute.
Proposition 57 of 2016 amended the California Constitution to provide that the Department has the authority to grant additional early release credit via regulations for “good behavior and approved rehabilitative or educational achievements.” However, the Department is required to “certify that these regulations protect and enhance public safety.”
Crime, and the fear of crime, is rising in California. Atrocities, such as the shooting of six and wounding of 12 individuals one block from the State Capitol, are mere demonstrations of the fact that, far too often, dangerous criminals are loose on our streets when they should have been behind bars. One person arrested in connection to the massacre, Smiley Martin, has a lengthy criminal record, and was released from prison in February after serving a fraction of his 10-year sentence. This is only the most recent, and one of the more dramatic, high profile examples of brazen crimes in this state, which include the rampant theft of catalytic converters from vehicles, “smash and grab” robberies, cargo theft,10 and a 31% increase in homicides between 2019 and 2020.
As your budget summary states, “The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) incarcerates
people convicted of the most serious and violent felonies.” Existing statutes contain more than enough incentives for
prison inmates to behave in prison and engage in rehabilitative programming. There is no need to permit even earlier
release of violent inmates and career criminals.
California already has a prison incarceration rate significantly below the national average. The state’s inmate population has fallen significantly in recent years14 and you have proposed to close two prisons. There is no budgetary or policy reason why the Department should expand the early release of inmates. Particularly in the current climate, accelerating the release of the most serious and violent felons jeopardizes public safety. It also makes a mockery of the concept of truth-in-sentencing when inmates serve a small fraction of their court-ordered sentences.
Californians should have the right to live in safe communities free from the fear of crime and violence. Accelerating the
early release of inmates jeopardizes public safety and will make our state less safe.
For the reasons stated above, we urge that you direct that your Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation withdraw
these dangerous regulations and allow the emergency regulations now in effect to expire.
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation will hold a public hearing on the early release proposal on April 14. The teleconference will open for public comment at 10am – Californians wishing to comment on the proposal should call 1-877-411-9748 and enter participant code 6032676