A judge struck down a credit-based early release program for second strike inmates in California at least temporarily on Wednesday.
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation had proposed an emergency regulation to increase credits for those with good conduct, but the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office along with 27 other offices across the state filed a lawsuit.
The ongoing litigation just bought prosecutors some extra time to address whether the CDCR has the emergency power to reduce time served based on credits.
“Just recently they have tried to enact a rule that allowed those offenders to get 66% of their credits, so they would only serve a third of their sentence,” said Lisa Muscari, Chief Deputy District Attorney for San Luis Obispo County.
According to the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office, the plan would apply to “non-violent” second strikers, but that includes domestic violence, human trafficking, animal cruelty and possession of weapons by previously convicted serious and violent felons.
“The latest conviction, if it is not violent, then they are eligible for getting 66% credits even though in the past they’ve had violent convictions,” explained Muscari.
Eligible inmates would have to show good behavior and be housed at minimum-security A or B facilities.
“The department stands by our regulations as drafted and is moving forward with implementing the unaffected portions of the credit-earning regulations as scheduled on January 1, 2022,” said Dana Simas, CDCR’s Press Secretary, in a statement.
“They don’t have to do anything special, just not get in trouble while in custody,” added Muscari.
The San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office said a local example would be the Robert Eugene Deutsch case in 2012. He was sentenced to serve 30 years to life in state prison.
“He had prior convictions [Penal Code] 211s, which are robberies, and his latest case, however, was domestic violence and domestic violence is not a violent offense […] it is a serious offense,” added Muscari.
One of those credit-earning programs is fire camp, which is not included in this emergency proposal.
“CDCR’s primary mission is public safety, and as part of that mission we will continue to ensure incarcerated people who are making efforts towards their own rehabilitation by maintaining good behavior and participating in programming and rehabilitative opportunities are afforded the chance to earn credits for their efforts,” said Simas.
Muscari, who also supervises the parole hearing unit and sex crimes unit among others, said they are concerned for the well-being of the survivors.
“They actually do sometimes come in and testify or make a statement during sentencing to let the judge know what impact the defendant’s crime has had upon their life, and it is not fair to them,” concluded Muscari.
CDCR said the intent is to also give incarcerated individuals and their loved ones a clear release date to give them something positive to work toward. For information on credit-based programs still in effect, click here.
In terms of the next steps, there is another court hearing that will address this lawsuit in 2022.