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Brown’s Prison Reform Plan to Prevent Prosecutors from trying Minors as Adults

Posted by Seth Chazin | Feb 05, 2016 | 0 Comments

Governor Jerry Brown is sponsoring a November ballot initiative that would allow inmates to get out of prison earlier and require judges, not prosecutors, to decide whether to charge juveniles as adults.

The Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016initiative would roll back parts of Proposition 21, the ballot measure voters approved in 2000 that gave prosecutors the right to try minors as adults. It also would give inmates with convicts for nonviolent offenses the chance to seek parole after serving time on their primary, most serious offense. This means that inmates whose sentences were lengthened due to secondary offenses or enhancements might not have to serve additional time. “This is pretty dramatic,” said Joan Petersilia, a Stanford law professor who has studied the state prison system for decades. “With enhancements, a base term of 4 years can quickly turn into 20 years. In one swoop (Brown) is eliminating that.”

Brown said that only well-behaved inmates would be considered for early parole. The initiative would let inmates strive for a reduced sentence through a revised credit system for good behavior, education, and rehabilitation.

Brown's support of the measure is the first indication of what he will do with the $24 million in campaign funds he's been sitting on. Brown said that he would not disclose whether he would use his campaign funds because that would be using government time to discuss campaign spending. However, he did say he would do “whatever it takes to get this done.”

Petersilia said that some sort of sentencing reform was anticipated as the state looks for long–term solutions to dealing with prison overcrowding.

About the Author

Seth Chazin

Seth P. Chazin has aggressively defended clients in thousands of felony and misdemeanor cases for over 30 years. He has extensive experience representing criminal defendants in federal and state court, while handling both state and federal appeals as well.


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“The death penalty is a lie, a misguided mistake born of anger and frustration. Capital punishment has become a perverse monument to inequality, to how some lives matter and others do not. It is a violent example of how we protect and value the rich and abandon and devalue the poor. The death penalty is a grim, disturbing shadow formed by the legacy of racial apartheid and bias against the poor that condemns the disfavored among us, but corrupts us all. It’s the perverse symbol elected officials use to strengthen their ‘tough on crime’ reputations and distract us from confronting the causes of violence. It is finally the enemy of grace, redemption and all of us who recognize that each person is more than their worse act.”
- Bryan Stevenson