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California’s Secret Prisoner Release Program Has Residents on Edge

Posted on Monday, March 27, 2023
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by Andrew Abbott
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25 Comments

AMAC Exclusive – By Andrew Abbott

Seven years after California voters approved a ballot initiative ostensibly designed to give nonviolent offenders a shot at early release, a series of gruesome crimes committed by parolees released under the program have left many Golden State residents wondering how exactly the state’s Department of Corrections is determining who is fit to be released back into society. Yet despite public backlash, California Democrats have continued to vote against more transparency or reforms.

In 2016, Californians voted 64.4%-35.5% to approve Prop. 57, officially titled the California Parole for Nonviolent Criminals and Juvenile Court Trial Requirements Initiative. Since the program took effect, more than 15,000 prisoners have been released early.

The language on the ballot initiative was seemingly very specific: It stated that Prop. 57 would increase “parole and good behavior opportunities for felons convicted of nonviolent crimes and allow judges, not prosecutors, to decide whether to try certain juveniles as adults in court.” Passage of the measure was hailed as a major victory for the far-left criminal justice “reform” movement.

Per the proposition, inmates earn credits for “rehabilitation, good behavior, and education milestones.” Once they pass a certain threshold, they qualify for early release.

But several problems with Prop. 57 quickly became apparent.

First, California voters and even state lawmakers have virtually no oversight on what metrics are actually used to qualify an inmate for early release. In some cases, the parole board would vote against a convict’s release, only for him to be automatically released via the program.

Liberal activists and supporters of the program in Sacramento have argued that allowing the public to see the Department of Corrections’ justification for releasing a prisoner early constitutes a violation of that prisoner’s privacy rights. But critics say the intense secrecy is a threat to public safety.

A number of high-profile cases have also made clear that it’s not just “non-violent” offenders who are being released under Prop. 57.

Last April, a gunman shot 18 people and killed six of them in Sacramento – the worst mass shooting in the city’s history. The subsequent investigation found the shooting was the result of a gang rivalry. The primary aggressor was 27-year-old Smiley Martin, who fired an automatic weapon into a crowd.

Martin has a prolific criminal record stretching back to 2013. His charges range from possessing illegal firearms to assault, robbery, giving false information to a peace officer, and a litany of other violent offenses. In 2018, Martin was sentenced to ten years for “domestic violence and assault.” He violently beat his girlfriend, whom he was also pressuring to engage in prostitution for his benefit.

Yet, less than five years into his sentence, Martin was freed on “good conduct” thanks to Prop 57.

Most shockingly, a year before his release, Martin was denied parole. In that hearing, the deputy district attorney testified, “Inmate Martin has committed several felony violations and clearly has little regard for human life and the law, which can be shown by his conduct in his prior felony convictions.”

Martin had even engaged in criminal behavior while in prison. Yet he somehow earned 508 days of “pre-sentencing credits” and enough “post-sentencing credits” to automatically be released from prison under the provisions of Prop. 57.

In February, another violent criminal was released early under Prop. 57 and went on to kill a police officer. Back in 2021, a Prop. 57 parolee invaded a 61-year-old woman’s home, killed her and her two dogs, and set fire to her house.

But just how did criminals serving time for violent offenses get paroled under a program designed for nonviolent offenders?

As it turns out, the fine print of Prop. 57 tells a far different story than the topline summary voters were given. For example, “violent crime” is defined as 23 specific violent offenses. Assault is listed as one of the 23 offenses, but only “with the intent to commit a specific felony.”

As a result, crimes like Martin’s physical assault of his girlfriend are considered “nonviolent.” Certain rape charges or other violent acts can also be considered nonviolent under Prop. 57.

Criminals can use this as leverage over prosecutors (many of whom don’t want to enforce the law anyway) allowing them to “plea down” a violent crime to the specific “nonviolent” charge that would make them eligible for early release under Prop. 57.

The California Department of Corrections has also refused to provide clear data on the recidivism rates of parolees released under Prop. 57 or how “credits” toward release are earned.

Yet despite bipartisan condemnation, California Democrats have stubbornly refused to reform the program. Early this month, the state legislature voted down a bill that would require more transparency about what qualifies inmates for early release.

It seems that until Californians decide to make real changes in Sacramento, they can expect little relief from the crime plaguing their state.

Andrew Abbott is the pen name of a writer and public affairs consultant with over a decade of experience in DC at the intersection of politics and culture.

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jocko
jocko
1 year ago

HOPE ALL OF their NEXT CRIME VICTIMS ARE liberals, ONLY !!!!!!!!!!! they DESERVE IT !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Jeri
Jeri
1 year ago

Choices have consequences. If you are red, conservative, Republican, right leaning, whatever. Your focus if you are staying in California should be 100% on repair of elections. Until that is done everything else is mute…FACT.

PaulE
PaulE
1 year ago

The exact same thing is happening in a number of other Democrat run states that passed the exact same legislation shortly after Californias passed this nonsense. At the time this legislation was up for a vote here in the Northeast, literally dozens of law enforcement officials testified before the various Democrat run legislators that this exact outcome would be the end result. Of course, both the Democrats and the MSM poo-pooed this notion and said such an outcome could ever happen. Well surprise! Just as expected, things are unfolding just as anticipated.

Now with far fewer police on the streets, due to the success of the “defend the police” movement and over a 100 Soros-backed DAs in venues all around the country, crime is of course escalating and it will likely get worse as time progresses as jail as become a revolving door quickly releasing the criminals back onto the streets. Feel good politics, based on idiotic ideas promoted by the left in this country, does have a downside.

Nobody’s Business
Nobody’s Business
1 year ago

An eye for an eye etc. Then the Democrats will understand.

Kyle Buy you some guns,and learn how to shoot
Kyle Buy you some guns,and learn how to shoot
1 year ago

Reduce crime. Pay these criminals several thousand dollars to move to Calif. Kyle L.

Kenneth Wiezer
Kenneth Wiezer
1 year ago

Releasing criminals early only results in people living in fear and barring windows for our own protection. High crime areas already have barriers to commercial shopping, and now we are expected to have our home barricaded too? We have voted to become our own prisoner’s in our homes by legislation!

anna hubert
anna hubert
1 year ago

We’ve been living for 50 years now with the consequences of free love free sex , drugs and hand outs no demands and no expectations Government grew to gargantuan proportions while we slept Now we woke up to discover that something is screwed up

Gabe Hanzeli
Gabe Hanzeli
1 year ago

Its a liberal/democrat/progressive utopia!

Love those taxes, crime, perversion, baby raping, and peeing in the streets.

Granny26
Granny26
1 year ago

The demonrats have ruined this once beautiful state. People are moving out by the droves. And how does someone who has killed someone else qualify as ‘non violent’?? More freaking liberal thinking. May lightning strike the greasy head of Newscum.

P2burner
P2burner
1 year ago

…”Yet despite public backlash, California Democrats have continued to vote against more transparency or reforms…”

So, even though Californians have backlash again this stupid proposition now that they see what a failure it is, the Dems in power continue to thumb their noses at the constituency. Sleep with hounds, get fleas, California.

Dee
Dee
1 year ago

Well, what would you expect? Democrats love criminals.

Randall L. Beatty
Randall L. Beatty
1 year ago

It’s a Dem controlled state so they favor criminal’s they do not know what they are releasing and do not care. When California had a chance to get rid of the governor they voted him back in so with the Dems in power nothing will turn out good in that state.

David Millikan
David Millikan
1 year ago

What else would you expect in the
‘DUH’ state of California.?
And that’s where Stanford ‘DUH’ University is.

tika
tika
1 year ago

that law is the only thing keeping newsome out of prison.

Jim D.
Jim D.
1 year ago

Frankly, I’m surprised that they don’t just hand these criminals the firearms to use for more violent crime upon their release! It seems deliberate to me, the intent of releasing these violent felons is that they DO commit more violent crime! Especially when using firearms! How else can these idiots scream for more restrictive “gun control” measures on the rest of us? Does anyone ever notice that the vast majority of shootings occur on the Democrat’s watch!

Jim McDowell
Jim McDowell
1 year ago

The liberal mantra:1. Tax the general population.2. Lock down the general population.3. Disarm the general population.4. Release violent criminal upon the general population.

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