Sentencing reform is among the hottest topics in California’s prison system, but despite the heat, not much is happening. I would like to get things moving and so respectfully offer my own proposal as a starting point.
three-judge panel of Federal District Court directed the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) and the Prison Law Office (PLO), the plaintiff in the successful suit to force health system changes, to work together to generate a viable framework for sentencing reform. The judges’ directive flows from the fact that the prison health system shortcomings are a result of prison overcrowding and overcrowding stems from the current sentencing system. But despite the judges’ order, nothing much has happened.
My proposal relates to the April 24 first leg of a “Sentencing Seminar” at which the guest speaker was Kara Dansky, executive director of the Stanford Criminal Justice Center. Her presentation featured a brief history of indeterminate sentencing law, determinate sentencing law and the explosion of California criminal sentencing enhancements. Ms. Dansky also discussed the ongoing jurisdiction of the Federal District Court over CDCR.
I believe that both the CDCR and the PLO should use this moment in time to craft an equitable sentencing scheme that the court can implement and that will direct the Legislature to enact a new sentencing package. It should be noted that draconian voter initiatives on sentencing will fail when found to be in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution, when cruel and unusual punishment and due process guarantees are threatened. My proposal to start the conversation on sentencing reform follows:
The United States has the largest incarcerated population in the world, with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation making a significant contribution to this fact. Three decades of “tough on crime” have tripled California’s prison population. Prisoner overcrowding leads to inadequate medical health care.
Politicians elected on promises to be “tough on crime” along with the absence of medical oversight have led to the establishment of two Federal receiverships over the CDCR.
There is no incentive for the CDCR to reduce prisoner population.
My sentencing reform scheme
Eliminate “Early Release Proposal.”
Create “Progressive Sentencing Reform Challenge.”
EXISTING SENTENCING STRUCTURE
Sentencing Criteria for Conversation & Fire Camps;
Now; 2 Day Credit, for 1 Day served
Propose;3 Day Credit for1 Day Served
Example:30 Day Sentence; 10 Days Served, Instead,30 Day Sentence; 5 Day Sentence Served
DAY FOR DAY REFORM:
1 Day Credit; 1 Day Served, Instead, 2 Day Credit; 1 Day Served;80% – 85%
Instead, 1 day credit; for 1 day served
Program failure, return to “80 – 85%”
ABOLISH 3 STRIKES
Return to “original sentence, plus enhancements
Mandatory 60 – 65% time cut
Mandatory Program Targets
REFORM MATRIX SENTENCING STRUCTURE
7to life Minimum 5 years, Top Matrix 11 years; (Good/Work time credit)6 years 8 months;
15 to life Minimum 10 years; Top Matrix 21 years; (Good/Work time credit)
14 years 8 months;
25 to life, Minimum 16 years 8 months; Top Matrix 33 years Max
(Good/Work time credit) 21 years 8 months
LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE;
Converted to 30 to life using above matrix outlined above.
DEATH PENALTY SENTENCE
Abolish Death Penalty. The current system is overwhelmed, commute Death Sentence to life without parole. Although this writer offers no opinion on this issue, there are many comments that atonement and redemption is worthy of review and should invigorate a spirited and intellectual discussion.