Forty-one elected district attorneys — including Lake County District Attorney Susan Krones — filed a petition with California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Secretary Kathleen Alliso to request the repeal of temporary emergency regulations awarding additional good conduct credits to more than 76,000 state prison inmates, or nearly 80 percent of the state’s prison population.
The district attorneys said in their announcement that the regulations were passed under a claim of an emergency and first made public on Friday April 30, at 3 p.m. The regulations went into effect on Saturday, May 1.
They said the regulations would result in the early release of some of California’s most violent criminals including those that committed murder, rape, child molestation and arson.
In adopting the new rules, and claiming an emergency, Allison said the regulations were necessary to comply with “the direction outlined in the Governor’s Budget Summary” presented a year ago on May 14, 2020, the district attorneys said.
“By invoking an emergency, the traditional regulatory scheme and transparent public comment period was bypassed,” the group noted in their announcement.
“Modifying these credit awards without any public input is disrespectful to the victims of these most serious crimes and to crime victims everywhere. It also creates a serious risk to public safety. The public should be able to weigh in on this important proposal that is going to impact our community and other communities throughout the state of California,” said Krones.
CDCR Press Secretary Dana Simas told Lake County News that the change was approved in the 2020-21 state budget. In the public safety portion of the budget, it notes that while the changes are estimated to save $2.7 million in the state general fund in the current fiscal year.
The district attorneys filed an administrative law petition on Thursday that they said is the first step in seeking a formal court order declaring the regulations unlawful.
If the emergency regulations are nullified by a court, CDCR would be forced to pass the regulations in the traditional manner, requiring the State’s Office of Administrative Law to provide greater transparency and allow for public input.
Krones told Lake County News that she has not gotten a specific number of how many inmates from Lake County could be impacted by the changes.
“They only give us very short notice about who they are releasing early and under the current regulations we can’t even object,” she said.
Over the last several months, Krones said her office has seen an average of about five prison inmates who came from Lake County being released per month by CDCR, an increase from pre-pandemic levels.
Krones said the number of prison inmate releases have “definitely increased” in comparison to the time period of January to April 2020.
“With the new regulations it will increase even more,” she said.
An explanation of the good conduct credits plan
Previously, violent offenders would receive 20 percent credit, or one day of credit for every four days served. That will now go to 33.3 percent, or one day of credit for every two days served.
For nonviolent second- and third-strikers, credits would rise from 33.3 percent to 50 percent, or one day of credit for every day served.
In a written statement released to Lake County News, CDCR said the changes are not an early release program and do not result in the automatic release of any incarcerated individual.
“Under statute, incarcerated individuals are able to receive credits for good behavior and participation in rehabilitation programs. Proposition 57, which voters overwhelmingly approved in 2016 and upheld in November, gave the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation the authority to submit regulations to provide additional opportunities for incarcerated people to receive these good conduct credits,” the agency said.
CDCR said it submitted the regulations to increase the rate at which incarcerated people can receive good conduct credits. The changes were approved in the 2020-21 state budget.
The regulations are still subject to final approval, and CDCR said the regulatory process allows for public input.
“This effort incentivizes incarcerated individuals to have sustained good behavior and encourages them to participate in rehabilitative and educational programs, which can help reduce recidivism to make our communities safer. Our department’s focus is on a person’s rehabilitation and accountability in a manner that is consistent with public safety,” the agency said.
CDCR offered a breakdown of inmates who would be eligible, noting county-by-county numbers were not available.
The agency anticipates approximately 63,282 violent offenders would be impacted by the May 1 good conduct credit increase from 20 to 33.3 percent.
Of those prisoners, 27,430 are non-strike determinately sentenced offenders, 13,447 are second strikers, 2,814 are third strikers and 19,591 are sentenced to an indeterminate or life term with the possibility of parole, CDCR said.
CDCR said the good conduct credit increase from 33.3 to 50 percent would impact another 10,077 nonviolent second strikers and 2,871 nonviolent third strikers.
The CDCR’s Division of Correctional Policy Research and Internal Oversight said in its weekly report that there are 96,495 individuals in custody or under its supervision, down by 20,619 since last year.
That in-custody total excludes nearly 51,000 parolees, more than 13,000 in other jurisdictions or populations, and the 6,719 parolees at large.