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Governor Brown Proposes Prison Reforms

Sacramento, CA – Following “intense conversation” with state law, justice, and rehabilitation officials the governor revealed an amended prison reform ballot measure.

The proposed legislation, the “Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016,” which his office filed Wednesday with finalized amendments, authorizes parole consideration for nonviolent inmates who complete the full sentence for their primary offense. It also allows them to accrue credits for good behavior, education, and rehabilitative achievements. It additionally re-shifts from prosecutors to judges the responsibility for determining when to try age 14 and over juvenile offenders as adults.

Among the law enforcement officials who spoke at the press conference, Los Angeles Chief Charlie Beck opined, “Proper incentives and programs that make a difference in peoples’ behavior.” He added that concerted rehabilitative efforts are an effective means to open up bed space for “the people who need to be there.” Other stakeholder supporters attending the teleconference who weighed in included Chief Probation Officers of California (CPOC) President and CPO for Amador County Mark Bonini; San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, also a former juvenile judge and district attorney; and California Catholic Conference of Bishops Deacon Clyde Davis, also Chaplin of the California Correctional Institution in Tehacapi.

The Governor stated that the measure would serve a number of purposes, including to satisfy its federal mandate to reduce its number of inmates. “This is in response to a three-judge order that is releasing nonviolent inmates, mostly second-strikers, through a parole process that has been operating for more than a year,” he explained.

Secondly, Brown said it would help restore the more positive features of the indeterminate sentence, namely the opportunity for a shorter overall term through good behavior incentives, including participation in rehabilitation programs, thereby improving prison safety and reducing recidivism.

Referring to the current system of earning credits while in prison or jail a “crazy quilt,” Brown stated that the system for accruing credits would be rationalized. “What we are looking for is [inmates] not just sitting around…not doing anything bad…but rather, actually earning credits for what will be evaluated as having good behavior – and education and rehabilitative achievement,” he explained. He added, “I stress the word ‘achievement’ because it is something that must be demonstrated and it will require an act of will, practice and participation by the inmate and in its essence provide incentive — both reward and punishment — because those who misbehave can lose credits, even those they have obtained.”

Returning the responsibility to try juveniles as adults to judges, Brown said, will help ensure that the decisions made are well-balanced and thoughtful. “Judges should judge – prosecutors should prosecute,” he opined. Governor Brown now plans to personally push the proposal with an eye on getting it onto the November ballot.