Ten months after California voters approved allowing thousands of prison inmates to apply for early release, a debate continues over who ought to be freed, reports the Bay Area News Group. Proposition 57 left it to prison officials to identify which crimes deemed nonviolent would qualify and how an inmate’s criminal history would affect eligibility. The public could weigh in during a 45-day comment period this summer. More than 8,500 people did, both in writing and at a public hearing last week. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is sorting through email and stacks of letters from crime victims, inmates, prosecutors and reformers.
Prison officials have notified prosecutors of more than 1,800 inmates who have applied for early parole. No figures are available on the number of inmates whose applications have been denied, approved or have actually been released. A snapshot of two urban counties in Northern California shows relatively few people are being granted early parole. In Santa Clara County, only six out of 40 inmates will be released early. In Sacramento County so far, it’s even fewer, only six out of 65. Sacramento District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert, a leading critic of Proposition 57, has opposed the release of all prisoners so far. Kent Scheidegger of the Sacramento-based Criminal Justice Foundation, who opposed Proposition 57, said, “People got the idea a few years ago that prisons were full of harmless people. That is a widespread popular misconception.”