A California appeals court has ruled that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has improperly denied parole hearings to thousands of incarcerated individuals.
Approximately 4,450 non- violent offenders who were denied parole consideration due to in-prison rules violations will now be eligible for early release due to the land- mark ruling, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
“The whole objective was to not only find relief for me, but for all those who are similarly situated,” said Tijue McGhee, the petition- er in the case, “All people deserve the same treatment under the law.”
McGhee was sentenced to nine years in state prison, four years for a burglary and five years for a previous felony enhancement.
Under the regulations implemented after Proposition 57 passed, McGhee would have been eligible for parole consideration as a non-violent offender after serving four years.
He had been denied a pa- role hearing due to receiving a Division A(1) Rules Violation for possession of a weapon and for serving a Security Housing Unit (SHU) term, two issues which were related. As a result, McGhee lost good time credits and was also given a DA referral. He was convicted of possession of a weapon within an institution and sentenced to an additional four years at 80% as a non-violent offense.
“What inspired me to file was that the law was being introduced in 2016 [Prop 57] to further reduce the CA state prison population. It was supposed to be a tool for those who are nonviolent offenders as a remedy for further overcrowding,” said McGhee. “Also, nonviolent offenders would have liberty interest that was established by the state law which amended the California Constitution Article 1 section 32 A(1)(A).”
The latest ruling from the California Appellate Court is the third against the CDCR regarding nonviolent parole hearings, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
The first ruling struck down restrictions that excluded non-violent three strike convictions from being considered for early parole. The second ruling, which was issued in January 2019, struck down an exclusion of incarcerated individuals who were previously sentenced for a sex crime, but were currently serving time for a nonviolent crime. The latest ruling bars CDCR from excluding nonviolent offend- ers from parole hearings due to in-prison conduct.
“The ultimate decision is to be made by the (parole) board, not the department,” said Presiding Justice Stuart Polack in the 3-0 ruling.
McGhee filed a Writ of Habeas Corpus in Solano County Superior Court while he was being held within their jurisdiction. His friend and legal mastermind Rudy Wilkins assisted him while he crafted the documents.
“More inmates should really begin a study of their constitutional privileges, provisions, and protections that are allotted to them as citizens of the United States,” said Wilkins, “I think this inspires an individual to not so much challenge the authority, but to challenge the procedure and to make sure that the procedure is accurate with regard to all current laws and provisions provided for prisoners.”