California

Prosecutors launch legal salvo to halt Newsom’s early release of 76k felons

The Newsom administration’s push to expedite the release of 76,000 state prison inmates by granting additional time credits was met with sharp resistance from 41 of California’s District Attorneys on Thursday.

The group, led by Sacramento District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert, filed a petition with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to halt the emergency measure.

The move by CDCR to grant credits to tens of thousands of inmates came in a declaration of emergency by the agency in order to comply with “the direction outlined in the Governor’s Budget Summary” from last May.

The prosecutors note that the emergency regulatory action allowed CDCR officials to bypass public comment and other scrutiny typically afforded when it comes to parole credits.

The petition filed by the prosecutors is the first step in what will likely become a protracted legal battle between the Newsom administration and the state’s local law enforcement officials.

In the center, the fate of release for 76,000 inmates that prosecutors describe as “some of our state’s most dangerous criminals.”

The District Attorneys of Fresno, Madera, Kings, Kern, and Tulare signed onto the petition.

Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp noted that the credits being awarded to convicted felons are not insignificant compared to their total sentence.

“By shortening sentences by as much as 50%, CDCR’s use of emergency regulations to reduce sentences will result in the early release of some of our state’s most dangerous criminals,” Smittcamp said in a statement. “The impact of such a reckless action on crime victims and public safety is obvious and must be challenged. All Californians, and especially victims of crime and their families, deserve an open and honest debate about the wisdom and potential consequences of such a drastic use of the regulations.”

Tulare County District Attorney Tim Ward pointed to the greater impact on local communities as a sizable swath of the state’s prison population are released early.

“It is offensive to read in the adoption of these regulations that CDCR believes the early release of violent inmates will not have a significant adverse impact on businesses, or that the early release of some of the most violent inmates may have a positive impact on the health and welfare of California residents by reducing prison overcrowding,” Ward said.

Alex Tavlian is the Executive Editor of The San Joaquin Valley Sun and Executive Director of Valley Future Foundation. You can reach Alex at alex.tavlian@sjvsun.com.