First Inmate Released Under New California Resentencing Law

Friday, August 2, 2019

Publication: San Francisco Chronicle

Kent Williams’ friends and family thought he would probably die in prison.

He didn’t hurt anybody — he broke into two houses and stole a car in 2003. Still, under California’s previous “three strikes” law, Williams was sentenced to 50 years to life in prison due to his prior felonies.

His life sentence for property crimes, fueled by addiction to crack cocaine, was equivalent to the prison time a murderer might typically receive today.

But after 16 years behind bars, Williams walked out of prison on June 4. He’s believed to be the first California inmate released under a new law that allows prosecutors to review sentences they consider unjustly harsh.

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Williams was freed under a law that took effect Jan. 1. AB2942, by Assemblyman Phil Ting, allows district attorneys to review old cases and recommend lesser sentences to a judge.

Ting, D-San Francisco, said he sponsored the bill because California prisons are filled with thousands of people who were given overly harsh sentences under three strikes and old sentencing guidelines the state has since reversed.