Michael Rushford | January 29, 2016

In a remarkable announcement Wednesday, Governor Jerry Brown unveiled an initiative constitutional amendment he plans to qualify for the November ballot, which would allow for the early release of thousands of hard-core habitual felons. This announcement comes one week after an FBI report indicated that both violent crime and property crime jumped significantly higher in over 70% of California cities with populations of 100,000 or more.

The Sacramento-based Criminal Justice Legal Foundation reports that the Governor’s “Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016” would allow early parole for habitual felons in prison for serious crimes, such as residential burglary, even if they have prior convictions for violent crimes such as second-degree murder or rape.

“The biggest beneficiaries of the Governor’s initiative are the repeat, violent, and serious felons that the Victims’ Bill of Rights and Three Strikes laws were enacted to keep behind bars,” said CJLF President Michael Rushford.

Specifically the initiative would:

give parole eligibility to any felon in prison for the conviction of a non-violent felony, including grand theft, drug trafficking, residential burglary, assault, assault with a deadly weapon, assault on a police officer, exploding a destructive device, and arson, regardless of a criminal’s prior convictions. authorize the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to award “good time” credits to reduce the sentence of any inmate in prison for a serious felony who participates in a program with no limitation on how much of the sentence can be reduced. transfer authority from the District Attorney to Juvenile Court Judges regarding which violent juvenile offenders may be tried as adults. This includes murderers, rapists, and child molesters who are under 18 years old.

Less than two years ago, Governor Brown asked the Supreme Court to block any further federal court-mandated inmate releases, arguing that “further releases would include inmates with violent records who thus pose a substantial risk of committing new and violent crimes.”

“The only thing that has changed over the past year is that FBI statistics show that in 2015 violent crime in California’s largest cities has increased by 13%. Many in law enforcement blame earlier Brown-supported policies, which released roughly 30,000 repeat felons into communities as a contributor to these increases,” said Rushford. “It is difficult to imagine stronger evidence that the Governor is completely detached from the reality facing the law-abiding citizens that he is obligated to protect,” he added.