Release Date: December 14, 2023
Contact:  Michael Rushford
(916) 446-0345

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A Sacramento Superior Court judge has held that the Newsom Administration’s effort to grant early releases to tens of thousands of prison inmates is invalid when it comes to offenders sentenced to indeterminate sentences, most of whom are sentenced for violent crimes. The December 13 decision came in a lawsuit brought by the Sacramento-based Criminal Justice Legal Foundation (CJLF) on behalf of the families of crime victims. CJLF argued that administrative regulations authorizing the inmate releases adopted in 2021 by the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) violate numerous state laws and ballot measures which specify when and how a prison inmate qualifies for credits to gain early release.

The Attorney General argued that Proposition 57 gave the CDCR authority to accelerate the release schedule of roughly 70,000 inmates in state prison for good behavior or participation in rehabilitation programs.

Superior Court Judge Jennifer Rockwell disagreed in part, with regard to offenders serving indeterminate sentences such as 15-to-life for second degree murderer. Her ruling held that Proposition 57 did not expand CDCR authority to advance parole for this type of sentence. A second-degree murderer must serve a full 15 years before the Board of Parole Hearings can consider parole.

The opinion will be followed by a formal order, and CDCR will have 60 days to report how it has complied. However, Judge Rockwell granted a 30-day stay to allow CDCR to seek relief from a higher court.

“The CDCR has been releasing violent criminals, including murderers, years earlier than the law allows,” said CJLF Legal Director Kent Scheidegger. “Some of these released criminals have committed new violent crimes,” he added.

CJLF Legal Director Kent Scheidegger is available for comment at (916) 446-0345.