Conversations about Prop 57 were once a hot topic around San Quentin’s prison yard. Now it’s a disappointing whisper.
For decades a lot of prisoners around California have worked hard to rehabilitate themselves, hoping that one day they would be recognized and rewarded for their growth and change.
That hope has slowly disappeared as the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) continues to roll out its proposed emergency regulations for Prop 57.
These emergency regulations seem to offer some prisoners less hope to continue their rehabilitative efforts and little incentive to change.
R. Thomas was arrested in Los Angeles in 2000 and sentenced to 55-years-to-life in 2003. Thomas found out that his minimum eligibility parole date (MEPD) changed from 2055 to 2049.
Thomas stated, “I’ve earned an additional 35 years in gun enhancements on my sentence for doing wrong. I hoped Prop 57 would allow me a path to earn that much back for doing right, but the way it’s being implemented doesn’t help me at all. It’s not an incentive for me to continue bettering myself, but I’ll still continue to do good for God’s sake and society’s.”
In 2007, C. Daron Jr., from Los Angeles, was also sentenced to 55-years-to-life. CDCR reduced his MEPD from 2060 to 2046. Although long-term offenders receive more time off their sentences than short-term offenders, it doesn’t make a difference because their sentences are too long.
“Some may think, ‘Wow that’s a 14 year reduction,’” Daron Jr. said. “But at the age of 51, that would make me only eligible for parole consideration at 80 years old in 2046. That date is also tentative. Prop 57 in its current interpretation excluding substantive reduction in Three Strike cases is wholly ineffective.”
Even though W. Boatwright was sentenced to 7 years, 8 months in 2012, he only received a little over a month off his sentence for good behavior.
K. Smith was sentenced to 19 years and had 6 months reduced from his April 2025 early possible release date (EPRD). C. Sims, like some prisoners, only received 19 days off his EPRD.
CDCR emergency regulations are adding more confusion to an already disproportionate and complex sentencing scheme in California.
“To have actual substantive reform of California’s current sentencing structure, the state legislature has to be involved in a nonpartisan effort. Politics have to be placed to the side so that substantive reform can be revised into the current laws, which are draconian in nature,” Daron Jr. said.
Californians United for a Responsible Budget submitted a memo dated March 27, 2017, quoting expert Jim Austin, who recommended that there should be “retroactive and sustained changes to expand Good Time Credits so that prisoners receive credit they have already earned.”
Retroactive good time credits will give the chance to go home early to those prisoners who have taken it upon themselves to change their lives before they were offered any incentives.
As of now, CDCR is applying credits only toward the time an inmate has remaining on his or her sentence and not for the prior good conduct or rehabilitative programs a prisoners achieved while incarcerated.
CDCR Secretary Scott Kernan, however, stated that applying credits retroactively “would disadvantage those inmates who could not have known that the rules would change in 2017.”
In other words, before the draft regulations were written, inmates who did not take the initiative to participate in programs have gained an advantage over the men and women who took responsibility and accountability for their rehabilitation efforts by programming.
The intent of Prop 57 is to enhance public safety, improve rehabilitation, and give CDCR the authority to award credits “earned” for good behavior and other programs.
However, CDCR has made it so that a person who commits a crime today will earn more credits and be released sooner than someone who has decades of rehabilitative growth.
The opportunity to put a wedge behind the revolving door of recidivism and embrace public safety by granting credits to those prisoners who have actually prepared themselves for society has been squandered.