Crime Victims Lobby Group Sues California Over Early Release Plan
Crime Victims United of California — an influential lobby group that receives much of its funding from California’s prison guard union (see my earlier post here) — has filed a lawsuit challenging California’s recently implemented law, expected to reduce its inmate population by about 6,500, as a violation of the state constitution. The San Francisco Chronicle reports:
The state law, aimed at saving the state millions of dollars by easing overcrowding, took effect Jan. 25. State officials estimate that about 6,500 inmates in state prisons will be released early over the next year. In addition, to cut costs, the state will reduce parole agents’ caseloads to focus on “high risk” parolees.
California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Secretary Matthew Cate has touted the law as a “landmark achievement” that will enhance public safety by improving the parole system.
However, attorney Nina Salarno Ashford, executive board member of Crime Victims United of California, said the new policies will do the exact opposite.
The law, she said, violates a number of provisions added to the state Constitution in 2008, when voters passed Proposition 9, a victims’ rights and parole measure known as Marsy’s Law. …
The suit contends that the state Constitution prohibits the early release of prisoners because of crowding, that crime victims have a right to weigh in before an inmate is released and that the state is legally bound to provide adequate prisons. It also challenges a key portion of the law, the so-called day for day provision that awards nonviolent inmates a six-month credit reduction for every six months served.
It’s worth remembering that the bill that finally passed was a watered-down proposal; that even under this reform California will keep more released inmates under parole supervision than basically every other state; and that California is under a federal court order to reduce its prison population by 40,000 inmates so this bill is just a drop in the bucket of what California is going to need to find a way to do in the long run.