Californians overwhelmingly passed Proposition 57, the Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016, to break the cycle of incarceration by prioritizing rehabilitation and reintegration. Now, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) needs to implement the law in the way voters intended. But, CDCR is trying to unfairly limit who can be considered for parole or released under Prop 57. CDCR’s proposed regulations disproportionately exclude people of color, prisoners with mental illness, young offenders, and low-risk offenders from the benefits of Prop 57. Please use the below resources to demand that CDCR fixes their draft rules.
Please Send Your Comments directly to CDCR by this Friday, September 1, 2017. Here are several ways to make your voice heard. Use them all if you can!
- Use THIS LINK from Californians for a Responsible Budget (CURB) to send in your public comment, including CURB and Initiate Justice recommendations.
- Mail, Fax, or Email a letter to the Associate Director of CDCR’s Regulation and Policy Management Branch. This SAMPLE LETTER can be easily adapted and personalized and sent to:
Timothy M. Lockwood
Regulation and Policy Management Branch
California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
Mail: PO Box 942883 Sacramento, CA 94283-0001
by Fax: (916) 324-6075
by Email: CDCR-Prop57-Comments@cdcr.ca.gov
- Use this ACLU alert to send a letter to CDCR Secretary Scott Kernan: https://ssl.capwiz.com/aclu/ca/issues/alert/?alertid=78469626&type=CU
- SIGN THIS PETITION: https://campaigns.organizefor.org/petitions/implement-the-people-s-demands-for-california-s-proposition-57
- Come Out to the Prop 57 Regulations Hearing! In addition to sending written comments, you can come out to Prop 57 Regulations hearing in Sacramento. If you want to attend, please sign up here. Info is below:
Friday, September 1, 2017 9:00am-12:00pm
Dept of Water Resources Building Auditorium
1416 Ninth St. Sacramento, CA 95814
- Donate to Support Initiate Justice! Initiate Justice is a small, volunteer team that cannot do this work without the support of individual donations. Please donate $10, $25, or $50 right now to help pay for stamps to mail the regulations to people inside and support our mobilizations to Sacramento. Every dollar helps!
More on CDCR’s proposed regulations for Prop 57…
There are three main problems with the proposed regulations:
(1) The proposed regulations exclude people who are serving life sentences under the Three Strikes law for nonviolent crimes. Prop. 57 promised to apply to all nonviolent prisoners.
(2) The proposed regulations exclude young offenders eligible for parole under SB 260 and 261. At its core, Prop. 57 promised to correct over incarceration of young offenders and encourage positive rehabilitative programming—there is no justifiable reason to undermine the positive reforms of SB 260 and 261.
(3) The proposed regulations do not apply new programming credits to people who have been dedicated to rehabilitation for years, or decades. There is no reason why benefits of Prop. 57 should not apply retroactively to cover genuine rehabilitation programming in the past.
We call on the CDCR to implement the following recommendations to the Prop 57 Regular Regulations:
- Allow all people in prison to earn 50% good time credits.
- Make all good time credit earning retroactive.
- Include Third Strikers in the non-violent early parole.
- Award retroactive Education Merit Credits for each achievement.
- Allow every person with a Youth Offender Parole Date or Elderly Parole Date to earn time off of their earliest parole date.
BACKGROUND and MORE DETAILS
In Nov 2016, Californians overwhelmingly passed Prop 57 with 64% of the vote.
Among other things, Prop 57 increases credit opportunities for good behavior and completion of educational and rehabilitative programs for most people in CA prisons, and allows people convicted of nonviolent offenses to be eligible for early parole consideration. On July 14, 2017, the CDCR released its proposed regulations, which outline how they plan to implement this proposition.
We are concerned that many aspects of the proposed regulations are far too narrow and exclude too many groups of people from opportunities for rehabilitation or early parole consideration.
So, Initiate Justice conducted a survey of more than 2,000 incarcerated people to get their input on how they think Prop 57 should be implemented, since these rules will have direct impacts on their lives. Based on those survey results, and in collaboration with Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB), developed the following recommendations.
WHAT WE WANT
1. Include Third Strikers in the non-violent early parole:
The proposed regulations state that any person who is “Condemned, incarcerated for a term of life without the possibility of parole, or incarcerated for a term of life with the possibility of parole” is not eligible for nonviolent early parole consideration under Prop 57. We strongly believe that this population should not be excluded from this opportunity. The language of Prop 57 states: “Any person convicted of a non-violent felony offense and sentenced to state prison shall be eligible for parole consideration after completing the full term for his or her primary offense” and that “the full term for the primary offense means the longest term of imprisonment imposed by the court for any offense, excluding the imposition of an enhancement, consecutive sentence, or alternative sentence.” Since a Third Strike is considered an alternative sentence under California state law, it is clear that the voters enacted legislation that included Third Strikers in the nonviolent early parole process.
2. Allow all people in prison to earn 50% good time credits:
The proposed Prop 57 regulations increase good time credits on a graduated scale, depending on the offense the person was convicted of. People serving time for a violent offense will see an increase from 15% to 20% good time credit; people serving time for a serious offense under the Three Strikes Law will see an increase from 20% to 33.3%; and people currently serving time for a non-serious or nonviolent offense will see an increase from 33.3% to 50%. We believe that the incentive for good conduct should be uniform across the board, by equally rewarding all people who remain disciplinary-free, regardless of their conviction. The length of one’s sentence already reflects the severity of the offense, so we do not believe it is necessary to further punish people by limiting their access to good time credits as well.
3. Make all good time credit earning retroactive:
The proposed Prop 57 regulations state that good time credits will be prospective beginning May 1, 2017. We believe this is unjust and fails to recognize the many incarcerated people who have remained disciplinary-free for years without increased incentives. This recommendation is consistent with criminologist James Austin’s 2013 declaration in response to the Three Judge Panel order to reduce CDCR’s population. Here, Austin recommended that all credit earning be retroactive and found that this recommendation could be “implemented without having an impact on public safety or the operation of the state or local criminal justice systems. In fact, they would provide large cost savings that could be used to offset any local criminal justice costs and increase the level of effective programs at the state and local levels.”
4. Award retroactive Education Merit Credits for each achievement:
Award 6-month credit for every vocation, college degree, and G.E.D. obtained by people in prison. Imprisoned people should be able to get at least 6 months off per year per academic and vocational achievement retrospectively since many have completed multiple associate degrees, bachelor’s degrees and certification programs. Educational advancement has been shown to be one of the top factors in reducing the recidivism rate and should be treated with as much importance while further incentivizing people to enroll in academic and vocational programs.
5. Allow people with a Youth Offender / Elderly Parole Date to earn time off their earliest parole date:
The expanded Good Time and Milestone credits made possible should apply to these Youth Offender Parole or Elder Parole Hearing dates, not their original sentence. SB 260 and SB 261 were passed by the Legislature recognizing that many young people were victims of extreme sentencing; therefore, credit earning opportunities made possible by Prop 57 should be applied to their amended hearing dates in order to ensure that participation in rehabilitative programming and remaining disciplinary-free are adequately incentivized. Additionally, Elder Parole is a program that seeks to meet the court deadline to reduce the prison population.
Every incarcerated person who wrote to us expressed deep willingness to embrace their rehabilitation—if given the opportunity to do so. The opportunities presented to people inside will help set them up for success once they are released, and this will ultimately create safer communities for all.
Much of the information in this post comes from Initiate Justice.
Initiate Justice engages people directly impacted by incarceration to pass CA ballot initiatives focused on divesting from prisons and investing in communities.