Friday, August 21, 2009

State Senate Approves Governor's Plan and Sentencing Commission Bill

Yesterday, the State Senate approved the Sentencing Commission Bill, by a narrow margin of 21 to 19 voters. The discussion was quite polarized, with concerns about public safety raised by Republican lawmakers. The next step for the bill is the Senate Assembly's approval.

The bill was approved as part of the narrow approval of the broad plan proposed by Governor Schwarzenegger to release 27,300 inmates.

The approved measures - and the savings they entail - are as follows:

-- $42 million saved by allowing the early release of inmates who complete certain rehabilitation programs, such as by earning GEDs and taking vocational training classes.

-- $134 million saved by reducing the influx of new prisoners by changing some property crimes that now qualify as felonies to misdemeanors. Petty thefts, writing bad checks and receiving stolen property would no longer be charged as felonies. Stealing cars valued at $2,500 or less could be charged as misdemeanors instead of an automatic felony.

-- $120.5 million saved by allowing certain inmates to finish their sentences at homes or hospitals under GPS monitoring. Qualifying inmates would need to be at least 60 years old or severely ill and have less than one year to serve.

-- $30 million saved by allowing certain felons who violate probation to serve time in county jails instead of having them sent back to prisons.

-- $198.5 million saved by changing the state's parole system so that some low- and moderate-risk offenders would not be subject to parole revocation. Also, certain serious offenders would be eligible for early parole discharge if they successfully complete drug treatment.

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