(San Diego, CA) – 57-year-old Kent Williams of San Diego is believed to be the first Californian to benefit from AB 2942, a new state law by Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) which allows local prosecutors to review old cases for which the prison terms were unjustly harsh. If warranted, they can recommend a new reduced sentence to the sentencing judge who has the final say. This two-step process resulted in the release of Williams this summer after being incarcerated for nearly two decades.
“I’m grateful for the second chance,” said Williams. “I appreciate all the people who kept fighting for me. I’m ready to get a job, reconnect with family and friends, and watch my grandchildren grow up.”
Under California’s previous Three Strikes law, which has since been changed by voters, Williams received a 50 year-to-life sentence in 2003 for residential burglaries and car theft. He would not have been eligible to petition for parole until 2052. Williams would not have received the same sentence under today’s guidelines.
“I authored AB 2942 because there are many people like Mr. Williams who have been rehabilitated and paid their debt to society for their crimes, but are languishing in our prison system. Keeping them behind bars is no longer in the interest of justice,” said Ting. “I’m heartened to see how impactful criminal justice reform can be.”
After AB 2942 took effect January 1, 2019, San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan agreed to review the Williams case, which led to his release in June. Prior to Ting’s bill, only the Board of Parole Hearings and the Secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation could initiate and re-sentence a defendant.