Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert announced Monday that her office would start posting on its website the names and criminal histories of second-strike offenders released early from prison, felons who the county’s top prosecutor says still pose a threat to residents.
“It’s important for the public to be aware of these so-called nonviolent offenders … as many of them pose a danger to our community,” Schubert said in a statement announcing the move.
“We want to give information that we believe people are entitled to – who is being released in the community. Let’s tell the public the truth,” said later in the day.
Schubert’s statement reflects the tension that has marked the ongoing effort to reduce the state’s prison population. Schubert said she and other public safety leaders are frustrated that offenders whose latest offenses were not violent but who have violent crimes in their past can be considered for parole.
“There’s frustration among public safety leaders across California. They’re frustrated that (inmates) are being labeled as nonviolent second-strike offenders,” she said.
Schubert’s office says 72 such inmates sentenced from Sacramento County have been granted early prison releases as of Nov. 13.
“Some we’ve agreed to, have been fine with,” Schubert said.
According to information released by Schubert’s office, one of the offenders released held his then-girlfriend and her daughter hostage in their home in 2003. In 2013, while on parole, he led Galt police on a high-speed chase across Sacramento County.
Another had a decades-long history of assault offenses in Texas and California, including a 1995 attack on a 75-year-old woman, followed by violent assaults in 2005, 2006 and 2010. A third was a serial parole violator once convicted of voluntary manslaughter who prosecutors said “poses an immediate threat to the community,” according to a prosecutor’s letter opposing his release.
The state’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation says federal court decisions left it no choice but to release more people from prison.
The federal courts in 2011 ordered California – then with a prison population nearly twice its capacity – to decrease the population through early release, rehabilitation and realignment of low-level offenders to county jails.
Three years later, in 2014, came a directive ordering the state’s corrections department to create a new process to determine which second-strike offenders could be considered for parole by the state’s Board of Parole Hearings.
“The CDCR is trying to be compliant with a federal court order,” said Karen Flynn, Sacramento County chief assistant public defender. “It’s an acknowledgment of changing criminal law.”
Offenders whose terms doubled due to the state’s “three strikes” law, and who have served at least half of their active sentences, or who are within a year of having served half of their sentences, are eligible for review for possible release, according to state corrections information. Committees review inmates for eligibility and refer them to the parole board.
Sex offenders and those serving time for current violent offenses are not eligible.
From January through Sept. 30, 3,075 nonviolent second-strike inmates were referred to the board for parole review. Nearly 1,100 inmates were approved for release, about 1,000 were denied parole, according to state corrections data. Many other cases were pending review awaiting written testimony from inmates, victims and prosecutors.