A group of non-violent sex offenders is suing the California prison system for excluding them from potential parole under voter-approved Proposition 57.
The proposition liberalized parole consideration for non-violent offenders, but the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation adopted rules excluding all sex offenders, including for non-violent crimes.
“By excluding such individuals, CDCR’s regulations nullify the vote of the majority of Californians, who approved Proposition 57 with full knowledge that its early parole consideration provision applies to all nonviolent offenses, including nonviolent registrable offenses,” said the suit filed April 27 by the Alliance for Constitutional Sex Offense Laws.
“The easiest (offense) for people to understand is possession of child pornography which is a non-contact, nonviolent offense,” Bellucci said in a phone interview. “How does the department think they get to change the definition of what is a violent felony?”
California voters passed Proposition 57 by nearly 64 percent. It was placed on the ballot by Gov. Jerry Brown and supported by the California Democratic Party and the American Civil Liberties Union. Nearly $14 million was put into the measure, the majority of it coming from Brown’s gubernatorial war chest, the report said.
The new law allows early parole consideration for nonviolent offenders, provides incentives for inmates who participate in rehabilitation programs, and gives judges — not prosecutors — the authority to decide whether a minor will be tried as an adult.
Disqualified are prisoners serving life sentences without the possibility parole or on Death Row, and people convicted of a violent felony are excluded from the nonviolent parole process.
After the election, an emergency regulation was drafted. It excluded non-violent sex registrants from parole consideration under the new law. The Chief Probation Officers Association praised the decision.
“We are especially pleased with how well the department worked with us during this process and listened to our input as the leaders of rehabilitative programming in public safety,” the probation officers said in a statement. “These regulations reflect what we know is most important in programming and will have the greatest positive impact on the safety of our communities.”
However, Larry Rosenthal, a professor at the Dale E. Fowler School of Law at Chapman University, in an interview with The Daily Journal said, “The plaintiffs appear to have a strong case based on the plain language of the initiative. The suit could be an interesting and early test of new Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who could choose not to defend the lawsuit.”
Rosenthal also said that if the Legislature “forgot to put a truly violent felony on the list, and rectified that omission subsequently, Proposition 57 wouldn’t stand in the way.”