A new policy that could help some California inmates score an early release from prison is raising a lot of concerns, but legal experts say it’s not a wholesale get-out-of-jail-early card for them.
The policy, unveiled by state officials late last month, allows inmates housed by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to earn more so-called “good time” credits that would make them eligible for early parole or release.
Under the old policy, inmates housed at CDCR prisons received one credit for every four days in custody, provided they do not experience any disciplinary issues while incarcerated.
Starting this month, inmates will receive one credit for every two days served, which has the potential to reduce their sentence by one-third.
The move impacts more than 70,000 inmates who are currently serving time for a variety of crimes, and would also apply to around 63,000 inmates who are in custody for so-called violent crimes.
The change in policy raised concerns among public safety officials who said it could lead to the state releasing thousands of inmates early.
But that’s not exactly what happens.
Being eligible for early release is not the same as getting early release, and inmates could still be denied release or parole based on factors unrelated to their good time credits.
“The people who have committed the most dangerous crimes, still don’t get out of prison, it just brings them to the [parole] board earlier,” Michael Romano, a Stanford law professor, told CBS13 News in an interview.
Individuals who do receive early release tend to be those who have demonstrated significant rehabilitation while in custody.
“You have a different person being released than the person that went in,” Sacramento legal expert Mark Reichel told CBS13.