SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A civil lawsuit has been filed in the Sacramento Superior Court by 44 elected California DAs, headed up by Anne Marie Schubert, against the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The lawsuit seeks declaratory and injunctive relief in an effort to prohibit CDCR’s awarding of additional conduct credits to over 76,000 California inmates.
The additional credits, assigned under emergency regulation in April, gives the inmates the opportunity to leave prison earlier as California seeks to trim the prison population of what was once the nation’s largest state corrections system.
Under the emergency regulation, according to data provided to the Associated Press, over 63,000 inmates convicted of violent offenses will be eligible for credits awarding good behavior, which will shorten their sentences by one-third, including almost 20,000 prisoners serving a sentence of life without parole.
“The goal is to increase incentives for the incarcerated population to practice good behavior and follow the rules while serving their time, and participate in rehabilitative and educational programs, which will lead to safer prisons,” CDCR spokeswoman Dana Simas said in a statement to media outlets.
“Additionally, these changes would help to reduce the prison population by allowing incarcerated persons to earn their way home sooner,” she added.
The lawsuit filed by Schubert and others asks the Superior Court to declare the regulations unlawful, and to prohibit CDCR from awarding any additional credits until the department “lawfully complies with the regulatory scheme, which would include a transparent and rigorous public comment period.”
“Allowing the early release of the most dangerous criminals, shortening sentences as much as 50%, impacts crime victims and creates a serious public safety risk,” said Schubert. “This lawsuit asks the court to enjoin CDCR from awarding these credits unless and until these regulations are exposed to a fair, honest and transparent debate, where the public has input on dramatic changes made through the regulatory process.”
The state of California has been under court order to reduce its prison population, which hit a ceiling at 160,000 in 2006. In 2011, the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of a federal judge’s order that the golden state shrink the prison population.