Ten years after voters overwhelmingly approved California’s tough three-strikes sentencing law, voters seem poised to sharply scale it back and open the door for thousands of inmates to be released early, the Los Angeles Times says. The number is in dispute. Backers of the initiative, citing a judge’s ruling and the state’s nonpartisan legislative analyst, say about 4,000 inmates would be eligible to have their sentences reviewed. Prosecutors say criminal procedure experts tell them that 26,000 or more could leave prison early.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, an opponent, yesterday appeared with opponents who cite th 26,000 figure. “Because Proposition 66 is retroactive, thousands of convicted killers, rapists and other violent offenders would be released,” the governor said, later hugging tearful crime victims. The disagreement is over how many of the 35,000 inmates sentenced under three strikes – about 21 percent of the state’s prison population – would qualify for new sentences. The only inmates eligible to request resentencing would be those serving life sentences for a nonserious, nonviolent felony, A Sacramento judge said in August. The ruling is not the last word; prosecutors say thousands of other inmates, including many in prison for second strikes, could demand review of their sentences.