Judges Have Limited Sentencing Options Under CA Prison Realignment


Since last year’s overhaul of California’s prisons, nearly 90 people convicted of felony crimes were sent to Santa Cruz County Jail instead of prison, says the Santa Cruz Sentinel. Under prison realignment, state officials have carved out a number felony crimes that no longer carry the option of a prison sentence. Instead, offenders serve their time locally, in county jails or through alternative programs such as drug treatment programs and electronic monitoring. It’s also meant more people placed on probation.

The new structure gives judges limited discretion when it comes to sentencing, said John Salazar, presiding judge of Santa Cruz County Superior Court. Judges may commit offenders to county jail, or they can impose a split sentence, with a portion served in jail and the rest on mandatory supervision. Crimes that now carry potential jail, not prison sentences, are typically those considered “triple nons” –nonviolent, nonserious and nonregisterable sex offenses. These include many drug offenses and property crimes. Before realignment, these offenders would have been sent to prison.

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