Attorney General Jerry Brown Slows Down Early Releases

California Attorney General Jerry Brown effectively tapped the brakes on early releases from local jails by issuing an opinion that a parole reform law designed to get convicts out earlier does not apply retroactively to time served. As a result, those behind bars will have to wait longer and continue with good behavior in order to take advantage of the early release law.

"In response to numerous inquiries, this bulletin states the position of the Department of Justice," Brown stated Tuesday. "After analyzing the code section, it seems reasonably clear that the law should apply prospectively" (as opposed to retroactively).

As such, until a court precedent deems otherwise, prisoners can only earn good-behavior time reduction after Jan. 25, when the law went into effect.

Some counties, including Orange County, had already begun releasing inmates under the rule. In fact, according to the Los Angeles Times, Orange County let out 300 and Sacramento let out 200 before a judge ruled last week that the parole reform legislation should only apply to state inmates. Los Angeles County did not let out any. One convict in Sacramento is was accused of trying to rape someone within 13 hours of having been released from a local jail.

Brown writes in his opinion: "If the Legislature had intended to lower incarceration costs by reducing prison sentences retroactively, it could easily have done so through a more direct means, such as increasing credits in a manner unrelated to prisoner conduct. The fact that it declined to do so, combined with its failure to expressly address retroactivity, supports our position that the amendment should be applied prospectively."

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