Forty-four district attorneys from across California filed a lawsuit against the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) calling new regulations to increase credit for prisoners illegal. They say they are concerned that it will further traumatize victims of crime.
“My greatest concern was that crime victims who thought the person who committed the crime was still in custody and would suddenly see them walking down the street,” said Joyce Dudley, county attorney for Santa Barbara.
Effective May 1, the CDCR gave prisoners more opportunities to obtain loans that would shorten their sentences and expedite their probation.
“They did this without public hearings and comments as an emergency settlement under a specific section of the law that says you can do these things quickly in an emergency,” said Dan Dow, district attorney for the San Luis Obispo District. .
The prosecutors involved in the lawsuit insist that there was no emergency that would allow this to happen.
“So we’re blaming them and saying you need to reverse these rules and do it the right way,” said Dow.
Dudley added, “We need to know who is getting off so we can notify the victims, and the victims need to have their say.”
Inmates can earn credit for good behavior or by participating in programs in the prison.
Dow stated, “That means that someone who gets a day for four served now gets one day for every two and counts towards their sentence and could be released from prison early.”
A criminal defense attorney said that while on probation, people could receive more rehabilitation benefits that are not necessarily available in prison.
“The whole goal is to give them the skills to get a job when they quit. I think it would be beneficial to the community overall, ”said Sanford Horowitz, a Santa Barbara criminal defense attorney.
We asked if the credits and early releases would cost Californians.
Dow said, “There is essentially no cost to the taxpayer to get the additional credit. If anything, it is likely argued as a saving because people would get out of jail sooner. But that’s just the cost of incarceration, what about the cost to the victims? “
Crime Survivors, Inc.’s founder and CEO of a victims’ rights group, Patricia Wenskunas, said she was concerned about what would happen to inmates after they leave prison.
“They know they can’t afford housing, they can’t afford other programs and services. Will these extra credits rehabilitate them so they don’t go ahead and make someone sacrifice again? “
Horowitz, who told us that he could immediately think of three customers who would benefit, shared a different point of view.
“It is another opportunity to get back to life, to their families, to return to society, to rebuild the life they left because they were incarcerated.”
Inmates at the California men’s colony in San Luis Obispo are eligible, but prosecutors say they don’t know exactly which prisoners are.
Dow says the COVID-19 pandemic wasn’t a factor in these new regulations.