A new law aimed at reducing California's inmate population took effect yesterday and had an immediate effect in San Diego County, where 260 nonviolent offenders were released, says the San Diego Union-Tribune. The convicts – all doing time for offenses such as drug possession or petty theft – were let go under a provision that forces local officials to recalculate retroactively how they shorten sentences for good behavior and other credits. Those convicted of serious, violent or sex crimes aren't eligible for the accelerated credits.
Statewide, corrections officials launched their plan to reduce the prison population by 6,500 inmates and save the state more than $100 million over the next year. They said some of the revamped program's elements will cut down on recidivism and allow parole agents to focus attention on more dangerous former convicts. “It really is a win-win situation,” said Matthew Cate, California's secretary of corrections. Some police and crime-victim groups fear the law will threaten public safety by making it harder for officers to keep tabs on felons. “In the short term, we'll save money. But in the long run, if these guys commit more crimes, who's going to pay for it?” said Ernie Carrillo, president of the Deputy Sheriffs' Association of San Diego County.