More than 1,000 California inmates previously sentenced to life in prison have been freed since voters approved changes to the state’s three-strikes law in November, with only a handful charged with new offenses since their release, says a new report quoted by the Los Angeles Times. Authors of the report, who helped write and campaign for the ballot initiative, said third-strikers released under Proposition 36 have a lower recidivism rate than other prisoners freed on parole, helping save the state millions of dollars by opening up space in crowded prisons without jeopardizing public safety.
The authors raised alarms about a lack of reentry programs dealing with housing, substance abuse and other problems available to third-strikers released from prison. They expressed concern that Los Angeles County is lagging behind other counties in clearing its backlog of cases in which inmates are seeking release under the ballot measure. More than 2,000 inmates statewide are awaiting court decisions on whether they should be resentenced under the proposition. The ballot measure, which won 69 percent of the statewide vote, allows many third-strikers to seek shorter prison terms if their third strikes were for non-serious, nonviolent crimes. Judges must reduce the sentences for eligible inmates unless doing so would endanger the public.