The California Senate and Assembly passed separate measures Wednesday that Democrats argue will bring fairness and common sense to prison sentences and Republicans insist will ensure criminals are let out on the streets early, reports the San Jose Mercury News. The separate, but similar, bills would each create a sentencing commission, an independent panel that could rewrite the guidelines used by judges who determine the punishment for different crimes.
Democrats say the commission will be charged with creating a new sentencing system that will be more equitable than the current one, in part by allowing criminals to serve “appropriate” punishment, which could lengthen sentences for some crimes and eliminate jail time for others, such as non-violent offenses. New sentencing laws also could help alleviate prison overcrowding at a time when the state is under a federal court order to remedy the situation. Republicans quickly called the measures “soft on crime.”