Thousands Of Sex Offenders Eligible For Early Release, California Supreme Court Rules
Ballot measure approved by Democrats 4 years ago
The California Supreme Court has ruled that thousands of criminals sex offenders could be eligible for early release under a Democrat initiative written four years ago.
The initiative was written by then-Governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat, and passed by almost two-thirds of the electorate.
The aim was to reduce the state's prison population, saying any person guilty of what was deemed a “nonviolent felony offense” would be eligible for early parole.
But it was never intended to cover sex offenders, according to Brown.
The original language, however, did not exempt sex offenders from consideration.
Lower appeals courts had ruled that nonviolent sex offenders could not be exempt, which was later affirmed by the high court.
Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye wrote in the court’s 7-0 decision:
“The initiative’s language provides no indication that the voters intended to allow the (Corrections) Department to create a wholesale exclusion from parole consideration based on an inmate’s sex offense convictions when the inmate was convicted of a nonviolent felony."
The Associated Press reported:
The ballot measure "allows officials to consider paroling inmates convicted of nonviolent crimes after they have served their basic sentence and before they have completed sometimes lengthy additional terms for enhancements for things like using a gun, having prior criminal convictions, or being involved in a street gang."
California law classifies sex crimes “like rape, sodomy, and continuous sexual abuse of a child” as violent offenses.
But this does not include “pimping, incest, indecent exposure and possessing child pornography," The AP reported.
Prosecutors had warned voters the proposal was “so sloppily and poorly drafted” it would “wreak havoc on public safety.”
The CDCR had “prohibited the board from considering early release for inmates serving time for a conviction that required registration as a sex offender,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
Inmates convicted of nonviolent sex crimes are entitled to early parole consideration, the state Supreme Court ruled.https://t.co/VqCttNvL36— San Francisco Chronicle (@sfchronicle) December 28, 2020
On Monday, the state’s high court ruled unanimously that the department’s regulations were unauthorized by Prop. 57. As of 2018, the state rules barred about 4,400 inmates from being considered for early parole.
According to a CDCR spokeswoman, Monday’s ruling “does not mean that sex offenders will automatically be released to the community,” adding that the parole board would “assess their case factors individually, including whether they continue to propose a public safety risk.”
The executive director of the Alliance for Constitutional Sex Offense Laws, Sacramento attorney Janice Bellucci, argued the case.
She praised the decision as “a significant victory” for incarcerated people convicted of sex crimes.
Both of those funded the drive to impeach President Donald Trump.