Capitol Alert

AM Alert: California prepares to soften parole laws

Pelican Bay State Prison in Crescent City, California, is surrounded by razor wire, tall fences and towers manned by guards with rifles.
Pelican Bay State Prison in Crescent City, California, is surrounded by razor wire, tall fences and towers manned by guards with rifles. Los Angeles Times

California is preparing for some changes to its parole system in 2016.

Two years ago, the state introduced “youth offender parole,” requiring the Board of Parole Hearings to “give great weight to the diminished culpability of juveniles...and any subsequent growth and increased maturity of the prisoner” when considering inmates who committed their crime before the age of 18. Senate Bill 261, authored by Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, and narrowly passed by the Legislature this session, will expand those hearings to include inmates who committed their crime before the age of 23.

Senate Bill 230, also authored by Hancock and narrowly approved, mandates that prisoners be paroled once they are found suitable by the board. According to supporters, some inmates continue to be held for years after they are deemed suitable for parole because of enhancements that the board can add to their base terms, such as for additional criminal charges that did not result in a conviction.

The Board of Parole Hearings will discuss the implementation of those bills during its monthly meeting, 2 p.m. at its office on K Street.

BIGGER THAN EVER: Demand for California’s public universities just keeps growing. California State University said it received more than 830,000 applications from students seeking admission to its 23 campuses next fall – an increase of 4.8 percent and a record for the sixth consecutive year. (About 311,000 students submitted those applications, many of them for multiple campuses, up approximately 3 percent from the year before.) The number of applications was up sharply among traditionally underrepresented minority groups: 27 percent among African-American students and 26 percent among Latinos.

THE END IS NIGH: The Capitol holiday music program is entering its final week. The Folsom Lake Youth Choir performs at 11 a.m. in the rotunda, followed by Avalon Strings at noon and the Davis Chorale and Davis Children’s Chorale at 1 p.m.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to state Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, who turns 60 today, and Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, who is 68.

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff

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