Earning Early Release: What Prop 57 Means for California’s Prison System

Earning Early Release: What Prop 57 Means for California’s Prison System

Pathways to Early Release

California’s prison system is one of the most crowded in the nation. Amidst severe overcrowding and enormous costs, California took steps to reduce the statewide inmate population to alleviate these problems. Despite the drastic situation, this reduction could only happen gradually while preserving the safety of the community, a top concern for many who opposed the changes.

In 2014, Californians passed Proposition 47, which reduced the penalties for certain non-violent criminal offenses. Specifically, it redesignated certain non-serious, non-violent felonies to misdemeanors. Because some of the resulting reduced penalties were shortened jail sentences, many inmates who were currently serving sentences could suddenly seek early release. The inmate population in jails fell, and the state saved significant costs. Proposition 47, however, wasn’t enough.

In November 2016, Californians passed Proposition 57, which furthered the efforts of Prop. 47. While Prop. 47 reduced the sentences for certain non-violent offenses thereby releasing some inmates from jail, Prop. 57 provides certain benefits for those serving sentences for felonies. With the passage of 57, opportunities for parole and credit for good behavior are increased for felons serving sentences for certain non-violent crimes.

So, what does this mean? While inmates won’t be automatically released under Prop. 57, they have a much better chance of earning early release. Many agree that giving inmates more opportunities to earn early release not only reduces the prison population and therefore costs, it also provides a powerful motivator for those currently serving sentences to maintain good behavior both in and out of imprisonment. Let’s look at the changes Prop. 57 made.

Potential for Parole

Inmates serving sentences for non-violent felonies will be eligible for parole if they’ve served their full sentence for their primary offense and passed a public security screening (meaning they are safe to be set free in the community). The primary offense is typically the most serious of any number of offenses an individual is charged with at one time. Additional offenses usually mean a longer period of incarceration, and Prop. 57 makes it so not all inmates will have to serve those additional months or years of their sentence.

Credit for Good Behavior

Inmates will also have increased opportunities for earning credit for good behavior or educational or rehabilitative achievements. This means inmates can be released early if they display good behavior while incarcerated or took steps to get an education, learn a vocation, or rehabilitate themselves while incarcerated. Previously, completing these steps didn’t necessarily mean you would get early release.  

Increased Opportunities Overall

Proposition 57 was designed to further alleviate the burden on California’s prison system by giving non-violent felons more opportunities to get out early on parole or for good behavior. It also gives judges, rather than prosecutors, the authority on decisions to try certain juveniles age 14 or over as adults. This differs from the previous arrangement where prosecutors had the authority to file adult charges against a juvenile directly. Now, the prosecuting attorneys no longer have this exclusive right. These two measures will, in theory, further reduce California’s inmate population. 

Speak with an experienced California criminal defense attorney if you have questions about how Prop. 57 may affect you. You must meet certain requirements for your conviction in order to benefit from Prop. 57. For example, it must be a non-violent offense. You should speak with a criminal defense attorney about how Prop. 57 could help you get early release and what you need to do to get parole. Likewise, speak with an attorney if you are facing charges for a felony and have concerns about your sentence. A skilled criminal defense attorney may be able to reduce your charges or get you a plea bargain that would make it easier to get early release from incarceration. Whatever your situation, a criminal defense attorney can advise you of your rights under Prop. 57 and help you understand how it can affect you.

If you have questions about Prop. 57, call experienced Visalia area criminal defense attorney Christopher Martens today for expert counsel. At The Law Offices of Christopher Martens, we can advise you of your rights and help you exercise them under Prop. 57. Attorney Martens has practiced criminal defense for over ten years and knows how to defend your rights.  Contact our Visalia or Hanford offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at MartensLaw@gmail.com to discuss a possible plan of action for your case.

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