For decades, California had the largest prison system of all U.S. states. However, in more recent years, sociological and scientific research indicated that the effects of mass incarceration can do much more harm than good. For example, a 2019 study conducted by the California Legislative Analyst’s Office notes that the average annual cost to incarcerate one person exceeds $80,000. Of course, ending mass incarceration not only provides economic and societal benefits but is also the right thing to do from a human rights perspective.
California lawmakers have been on the forefront of criminal justice reform. Most recently, California Governor, Gavin Newsome, announced a policy by which 76,000 inmates will become eligible for early release. The measure is designed to incentivize good conduct while incarcerated, allowing inmates to more easily use early release credits to get out of jail. More specifically, under the new rule, an inmate can use good behavior credits to shorten their sentence by up to one-third. Previously, there most a sentence could be reduced was one-fifth.
Unlike many other criminal justice reform measures, this new rule applies broadly to inmates convicted of all types of offenses, including those convicted of violent crimes. According to a recent report by the Associated Press, 63,000 of the inmates who will become eligible for earlier release are serving time for a violent offense. The new rule will also allow approximately 20,000 inmates currently serving a sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole to qualify for early release. In part, the reason why this figure is so high is that other criminal justice reform measures have overlooked this population.
Many applaud the Governor’s new rule, noting that the change incentives inmates to behave well while in prison, especially those inmates serving longer sentences. It also takes a practical approach to incarceration, understanding that an inmate’s behavior during the first portion of their sentence is not necessarily indicative of their future conduct in prison, as well as their ability to be rehabilitated. Ultimately, the goal is to reduce the prison population, which will save the state money and allow as many people as possible to secure their release and become contributing members of society.
The Governor’s new rule is just the latest in a string of criminal justice reform measures California lawmakers have implemented over the past few years. Other areas of reform focus on allowing inmates to more easily obtain resentencing hearings, reducing the number and use of mandatory sentencing enhancements, and rewriting the state’s felony murder statute.
Are You Serving a Lengthy Prison Sentence?
If you are currently serving a lengthy prison sentence, recent developments in the law may enable you to various types of relief. Barhoma Law, P.C. is a dedicated team of California criminal appellate attorneys who handles a wide range of appeals and post-conviction matters, as well as applications for commutation. With a California Criminal Appeals lawyer’s help, you can better understand your options and what you can do to pursue them. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation, reach out to Barhoma Law at 213-800-7664 today. You can also reach Barhoma Law, P.C. through his online contact form.