Governor Signs Ting Bill That Could Help Inmates Get a Second Chance
Californians serving unjustly long prison sentences may get a second chance under a bill signed by Governor Brown today. AB 2942 by Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) gives prosecutors the discretion to review cases and recommend a sentence reduction, if warranted. The recommendation is then submitted to a sentencing court, which would make the final determination.
“District attorneys have found that certain prison sentences, upon further review, are no longer in the interest of justice. Let’s give them a tool to revisit cases in which defendants were sentenced under outdated guidelines, have been rehabilitated and would benefit from a second chance,” said Ting, author of AB 2942. Under current California law, only the Board of Parole Hearings may recommend a change to defendant’s sentence.
While public safety remains a key priority, emerging research suggests past policies should be revisited. A University of Chicago report found longer prison sentences have marginal effects on reducing recidivism. In addition, results from a separate study by the Brennan Center for Justice indicate that prison sentences could by shortened by 25% across the board without a negative effect on public safety.
"Just as new evidence can bring to light wrongful convictions, it can also show that that there are sentences that are too long. I am gratified that the Legislature and Governor recognize that locally elected DAs are in the best position to assess the public safety implications of these decisions on their communities," said Jeff Rosen, Santa Clara County District Attorney and sponsor of the bill.
California houses nearly 129,000 inmates at a cost of $11 billion. The state also has the largest population of inmates in the country serving long-term sentences.
"Prosecutors are routinely being asked what they are doing to address mass incarceration. This law gives them the opportunity to answer," said Hillary Blout, founder and executive director of The Sentence Review Project, a newly formed organization that will spearhead implementation of the new law. The Sentence Review Project works with California prosecutors, system leaders, and communities to reduce the number of incarcerated people serving excessive sentences.
AB 2942 takes effect on January 1, 2019. For more information, please visit: www.sentencereview.org.
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