Saturday, February 20, 2010

Early Releases Law Under Attack

A few days ago we reported on an unusual narrow coalition between inmate advocates and victim advocates about the cuts to inmate rehabilitation programs. This weekend demonstrates the fragility of that consensus.

Per the Chron, Crime Victims United of California is suing Gov. Schwarzenegger, arguing that the statute, which includes parole reform and good credits for early releases, is unconstitutional:

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. Previously, inmates who behaved themselves served as little as two-thirds of their sentence; now, nonviolent convicts can serve as little as half their sentence.

Read more:
Nina Salarno's interview for ABC News tries to explain the apparent contradiction:

"We believe in good time credit if it's earned and earned means participating in true rehabilitation, not just sitting there and getting it, as they call it, for breathing."

CVUC devoted some thought to forum shopping. Placer County, according to Wikipedia, is a stronghold for Republicans. Lest you think this is accidental, this is not merely a pro-victim move. CCPOA provides financial backing for Crime Victims United; according to some sources, 95% of the group's funding comes from CCPOA. The CCPOA website keeps close watch over victim issues in general and CVUC in particular.

Another attempt at challenging the new law occurred when Assemblyman Alberto Torrico joined a lawsuit filed by the Sacramento County Deputy Sheriffs' Association, attempting to interpret the new law as applying only to state prisons rather than to jails. The attempt failed; Judge Loren McMaster, though expressing dismay with the new law, applied it to inmates in both prisons and jails. A similar effort to block releases in Orange County also failed.

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