Release Date:  August 20, 2009
Contact:  Michael Rushford
(916) 446-0345

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Legal Group Expects an Increase in Violent Crime

By a vote of 21 to 19, Democrats in the California Senate voted to adopt a measure that will authorize the release of at least 27,000 convicted felons from state prison, shorten the time served by remaining inmates through expansion of “good time” credits, and establish a sentencing commission to rewrite the state’s sentencing laws.  All 15 Senate Republicans and 4 Democrats voted against the measure.  If a majority in the state Assembly votes to support the measure, Governor Schwarzenegger has promised to sign it.

“These inmate releases guarantee that thousands of Californians will become new victims of crime,” said Criminal Justice Legal Foundation President Michael Rushford.  “The package also obligates financially strapped cities and counties to pay the cost of halfway houses and drug treatment programs and, by creating a politically-appointed sentencing commission, it removes the ability of voters to hold elected representatives accountable for decisions that directly affect the safety of law- abiding Californians,” he added.  

The Foundation, which is a Sacramento-based legal advocate for crime victims and law enforcement, noted that the package authorizes state officials to select inmates for release who are determined to be  “low risk” of committing violent crimes, primarily based on their criminal record.  When these inmates are released, they will be transferred to community rehabilitation programs.  Charles Samuel, recently arrested for the kidnap, robbery, and murder of 17-year-old Lily Burk in Los Angeles, was a repeat offender deemed appropriate for a residential drug treatment program, rather than state prison.   “Decisions about which felons in prison are ‘low risk’ can have tragic consequences,” said Rushford.

The Foundation cited a 2002 report from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics which tracked 91,061 property offenders released from prison in 1994.  The report found that within three years, 21.9% of these supposedly “low risk” criminals were rearrested for violent crimes, including 726 murders, 837 rapes, 5,735 robberies, and 12,475 assaults.  “These findings are based on the violent crimes these ‘low risk’ offenders were arrested for,” said Rushford.  “We may never know how many more violent crimes they, or their counterparts, who have not been caught actually committed,” he added.

“The notion that the state can save money by releasing known criminals is an illusion.  What the Senate has done today is begin the re-institution of failed policies from the 1960s, which we have already learned will sentence Californians to at least a decade of skyrocketing crime rates,” said Rushford.