New legal challenge faces California early-release law

Posted on February 17, 2010. Filed under: Courts, Crime, Parole |

Sam Stanton, Sacramento Bee

Published Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2010

Opponents of the state’s parole reform plan have begun new legal efforts to stop early release of county jail inmates and to overturn the new state law that has sparked the release of hundreds statewide since last month.

With the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department preparing to begin early release today of 80 to 100 more inmates, victims’ rights groups and lawmakers denounced the move as dangerous to the public.

“Someone’s going to get killed because of these policies,” said Wayne Quint, president of the California Coalition of Law Enforcement Associations.

Quint, who also heads the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs, said his group filed suit Tuesday to stop early release of inmates there, where 300 already have been cut loose under the new law.

That lawsuit is one of several that have been filed to stop implementation of the new law, including one filed late Tuesday in Placer Superior Court by Crime Victims United of California, which seeks a temporary restraining order and permanent injunction to stop the law from being implemented.

Yet another lawsuit will be heard Thursday morning in Sacramento in an attempt by the Sacramento Deputy Sheriffs’ Association to win reinstatement of a restraining order barring Sheriff John McGinness from releasing any more inmates early.

The DSA had won such an order last week after hundreds of inmates had been released, but Judge Loren E. McMaster dissolved his order Tuesday after concluding that inmates’ representatives should have a right to be involved in the matter.

DSA Vice President Bill Miller, appearing at a press conference today with other groups at Bill Bean Jr. Memorial Park, which is named for a Sacramento police officer slain by a parolee, said the deputies would seek to have the releases stopped at Thursday’s hearing.

Karen Flynn, Sacramento’s chief deputy public defender, said her office believes inmates should be able to earn good-time and work credits under the new law, which would allow for the early releases.

The new law changes how such credits are awarded, giving inmates credit for one day off their sentences for every day served that they work and exhibit good behavior. The old law awarded such credits under a system of one day credit for every three served.

Initially, inmates were being released under the law that took effect Jan. 25, giving them one day of credit for every day served even if they earned the credits before the law took effect.

McGinness said he had no choice but to allow the releases under the law, but said Tuesday inmates could not earn the half-time credits retroactively. Instead, after receiving advice from the state attorney general, he said inmates would receive half-time credits only for days served after the new law took effect.

The law was aimed primarily at reducing state prison populations by releasing up to 6,300 low-level, non-violent offenders.


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