California Proposition 57: What You Need to Know

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On November 8, 2016, California voters approved Proposition 57, also known as the California Parole for Non-Violent Criminals and Juvenile Court Trial Requirements Initiative. Here’s a brief look at what Proposition 57 means to California and its citizens.

  • New parole opportunities for those convicted of non-violent felonies.

Proposition 57 changes the time calculation for parole when a person has been sentenced to prison for a non-violent felony, and has sentencing enhancements (prior convictions are most common sentencing enhancements in felony cases).  In these cases, when the inmate has completed the full term of their primary, non-violent felony conviction, they are eligible for parole before completing the additional term for the enhancements.

For example, a person convicted of felony possession of stolen property with a five-year prior conviction enhancement, is sentenced to prison for an eight-year term (three years for possession of stolen property and an additional five years for the prior conviction).  As soon as the person completes the three-year term for the primary offense (possession of stolen property), he will be eligible for parole regardless of the fact he still has five years remaining on his prison term for the prior conviction.  Those convicted of violent crimes, such as murder, robbery and rape, are not affected by Proposition 57 and will not be eligible for early parole consideration.

  • Sentence credits for rehabilitation, good behavior and educational achievements.

Prior to Proposition 57, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) awarded sentence credits to eligible inmates that would reduce the total time they would have to serve in prison. These credits were awarded for good behavior, or for participation in education, work, and training programs. Not all inmates were eligible to earn these credits, however, and there were strict limits on the amount of reduced time that could be earned through credits. Under Proposition 57, the CDCR is required to adopt new sentence credit provisions that allow for the award of more credits (for good behavior, and completion of approved rehabilitation and education programs) to eligible inmates, as well as to inmates currently ineligible to earn credits.

  • Prosecution and sentencing of juveniles as adults.

Prior to Proposition 57, juveniles 14 years of age or older accused of committing crimes under specified circumstances could be tried in adult court and receive adult sentences. This included automatic transfer to adult court in cases involving juveniles accused of murder or specific sex offenses. Other cases involving juveniles could be filed directly in adult court under specific circumstances at the discretion of prosecutors. Under Proposition 57, all juvenile defendants 14 years of age or older must be given a hearing in juvenile court where a judge will determine whether the case should be transferred to adult court. In other words, cases involving juvenile defendants will no longer be automatically transferred to adult court, nor will prosecutors have the discretion to file such cases directly in adult court.

Provisions of Proposition 57 take effect immediately. However, guidelines and programs needed to carry out Proposition 57 changes are expected to take time for development and implementation.

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