Over three decades ago, fixed-length criminal sentences were approved in
California. Rather than having the length of a sentence for a particular
crime decided by a parole board, convicted individuals face specific punishments
dictated by state law.
Now, Governor Jerry Brown is calling for an end to this system, advocating
for a partial return to a time when parole boards alone determined the
length of an inmate’s stay based on their behavior in prison. Brown
believes that this move would relieve crowding in California prisons by
allowing inmates with good behavior to be released sooner.
The original system was replaced because it was seen as largely arbitrary
and harsh on racial minorities. Now, argues Brown, the entire system is
arbitrary. While he did not propose any concrete solution, Brown suggested
that parole boards be given a greater role in deciding when an inmate
can be released.
Brown is confident that this would solve a host of problems plaguing the
prison system, but others are not so sure. Many are concerned that a move
to leave the length of a prison stay solely up to the discretion of parole
officers could potentially jeopardize public safety.
Until Governor Brown comes up with a concrete plan to propose to the public,
the politics of the situation are enough to prevent any changes from being made.
Read more about this story in the
Los Angeles Times.
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