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Early Release of Non-Violent Offenders From Prison Provides Hope For Some

California state governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is contemplating a
plan to reduce the number if inmates presently in California jails as
a cost-cutting measure. The state currently has over 172,000 inmates
occupying its prisons, the second-largest prison system in the
country, costing over $8 billion annually. California also has the
nation's worst overcrowding problem, with some prisons at more than
200 percent of capacity.

Projections suggest California will run a $14 billion deficit this
coming year.
Under the plan, approximately 22,000 inmates would be released, saving
roughly a $250 million dollars. Only low-risk inmates would be
released, which includes non-violent and non-sex offender prisoners
with less then two years left on their sentences. The plan also
provides for cutting 4,000 prison system jobs.

Assuming Governor Schwarzenegger approves the plan, the state
legislature would then have to sign off before it would become law.
The plan is very controversial and would be subject to rigorous
debate. Some argue that the plan would suggest California is not
tough on crime and reduce the deterrent effect of criminal
prosecution. Others argue that those who would be released are
unlikely to offend again, and therefore the financial benefit would be
worthwhile.

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Seth P. Chazin is a San Francisco Bay Area Criminal Defense Lawyer.

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