Washington Examiner

California bill creates path to early release for inmates serving life sentences

Are you ready for some good news? A new criminal justice reform bill is making waves in California, seeking to give hope to those who have been sentenced to life in prison or even the death penalty. The bill, sponsored by Democratic state Sen. Dave Cortese and supported by a handful of reform organizations, would evaluate crimes committed before June 5, 1990, and those who have served at least 20 years of their sentences.

This is a huge step forward for those who have been incarcerated for decades, and it’s not just about compassion. The bill would save the state hundreds of millions of dollars each year by giving elder inmates the right to judicial review. As Cortese’s office said in a statement, “The recidivism rate for this inmate population is zero. That shows us that people age out of crime and many have done the work to rehabilitate after decades behind bars. This inmate population deserves a path to parole.”

But it’s not just about saving money. The bill also recognizes that the justice system has evolved in the last 10 years, and that there are many new factors to consider when evaluating a sentence. For example, victims of domestic violence, human trafficking, childhood trauma, sexual exploitation or violence, and numerous other circumstances can now be taken into account.

Support for the bill includes liberal organizations such as Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, California Coalition for Women Prisoners, Families United to End LWOP, Citizens United for a Responsible Budget, Families Against Mandatory Minimums, Anti-Recidivism Coalition, and Sister Warriors Freedom Coalition.

And the numbers speak for themselves. Approximately 820 people would be eligible for sentencing review under SB 94, according to an analysis of CDCR data. Nearly 99 percent of them are over the age of 50, and over 90 percent of them have served over 30 years.

This bill is a beacon of hope for those who have been forgotten by the justice system for far too long. As Chyrl Lamar, an advocate with the California Coalition for Women Prisoners, said in a testimony on April 11, “They deserve a second look. S.B. 94 would be beneficial for public safety, public health, and our budget. I urge you to take this into consideration and pass this bill.”

S.B. 94 is expected to be brought to the appropriations committee starting at 10 a.m. Pacific time. Let’s hope it passes with flying colors.

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