Bill giving longer parole sentences to jail inmates moves forward

June 11, 2013|By Paige St. John

Felons now serving their sentences in county jail face the prospect of longer parole terms under a bill sponsored by sheriffs in the state and nearing a final vote in the Legislature.

The legislation, carried by Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, allows county parole boards created as part of the state's prison shift to give inmates a three-year parole sentence instead of the current two-year term. It already has been approved by the Assembly.

In the past, felons affected by the law would have served their sentences in state prison and gone before a state parole board. California's 2011 plan to reduce prison crowding now diverts those lower-level offenders to the counties.

The California State Sheriff's Assn. sponsored the bill, arguing that longer parole terms would help make up for judges who are failing to use another tool at their disposal, splitting sentences between jail and probation. The Contra Costa County's sheriff was among those supporting the bill, saying it would give him "additional flexibility" to manage his jail population.

A state advocacy group, California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, opposed the bill, calling it a "solution in search of a problem." That did not convince state Senate public safety committee members, who voted Tuesday for the bill.

"The more tools we can have for successful realignment the better," said Senate Public Safety chairwoman Lonnie Hancock, D-Berkeley.

The Senate Public Safety Committee also passed a Assembly-approved bill requiring the state corrections department to prioritize vocational training classes around available job markets and workforce demands. It now goes to the Senate Appropriations Committee.


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