Proposition 57: Criminal Sentences. Parole. Juvenile Criminal Proceedings and Sentencing.

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Passed
The Question: 

Should prison inmates convicted of certain nonviolent crimes be considered for early parole and should judges decide when juveniles should be prosecuted as adults?  

The Situation: 

Prison sentences in California are set as either a fixed amount of time or an “indeterminate” time, which is a minimum but not a specific maximum time, such as 25-years-to-life. The majority of prisoners are serving a fixed sentence. Some of those are eligible for parole after serving half of their sentence. Those serving indeterminate sentences are eligible for a parole hearing once they have served the minimum sentence. Limited credits may be awarded for good behavior such as training or education, in determining parole.

In 2011, a federal court ordered California to reduce the prison population to 137.5 percent of capacity or face mandatory release of prisoners. 

Youths under 18 years of age accused of committing crimes are generally tried in juvenile court where judges determine placement and treatment. Youths between 14 and 18 who are accused of crimes such as murder or specific sex offenses may be tried in adult court at the discretion of a prosecutor. 

The Proposal: 
  • Prop. 57 would amend the State Constitution to allow parole consideration for persons convicted of nonviolent felonies who have served their minimum sentences and passed screening for public security.
  • Prop. 57 would change state law to require that youths have a hearing in juvenile court to determine whether they should be transferred to adult court, eliminating the ability of prosecutors to make that determination.  
Fiscal Effect: 

A decline in the prison population due to this measure could reduce the state’s $10 billion corrections budget by tens of millions of dollars(offset by costs to conduct more parole hearings). County costs could increase due to an increase in the probation population, which is supervised by county probation officers. 

New requirements for youth hearings could reduce state court costs and increase costs in state juvenile facilities. This would result in a net savings of a few million dollars annually. Net county costs would likely increase a few million dollars annually as counties pay for a portion of housing costs in state juvenile facilities as well as probation supervision.   

What a YES or NO Vote Means
A YES Vote Means: 

Certain state prison inmates convicted of nonviolent felony offenses would be considered for release earlier than otherwise. The state prison system could award additional sentencing credits to inmates for good behavior and approved rehabilitative or educational achievements. Youths must have a hearing in juvenile court before they could be transferred to adult court.

A NO Vote Means: 

There would be no change to the inmate release process. The state’s prison system could not award additional sentencing credits to inmates. Certain youths could continue to be tried in adult court without a hearing in juvenile court.

Support & Opposition
Supporters Say: 
  • Prop 57 focuses resources on keeping dangerous criminals behind bars, while rehabilitating inmates and saving tens of millions of dollars.                     
  • Without a commonsense, long-term solution, we will continue to waste billions of dollars and risk a court-ordered release of dangerous prisoners.
Opponents Say: 
  • Weakening of California’s anti-crime laws has gone too far.  California’s Constitution should not be amended to give more rights to criminals.                 
  • Prop 57 is a poorly drafted measure classifying crimes such as rape by intoxication and assault with a deadly weapon as ‘non-violent’ and eligible for early parole.