More than half of California prosecutors sue over prison good behavior credits, eligibility of 76,000 inmates

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More than three-quarters of California’s district attorneys are suing the state over its prison good conduct rules that could result in the early release of thousands of inmates, including some serving time for violent offenses. 

The lawsuit was brought Wednesday by 44 of the state’s 58 top prosecutors and accuses Corrections Secretary Kathleen Allison of using an emergency declaration to bypass the normal regulatory process. The lawsuit says the emergency regulations were really an attempt to comply with “the direction outlined in the Governor’s Budget Summary” from the year prior. 

It asks a judge to bar the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation from awarding the credits until it goes through the regular process, including a “transparent and rigorous public comment period.”  

In this Aug. 16, 2016, file photo, a row of general population inmates walk in a line at San Quentin State Prison in San Quentin, Calif. Three-quarters of California’s district attorneys sued the state Wednesday in an attempt to block emergency rules that expand good conduct credits and could eventually bring earlier releases for tens of thousands of inmates. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)

Notably absent from the lawsuit are Los Angeles County District George Gascon and Chesa Boudin, the San Francisco District Attorney. Both are two of the most progressive prosecutors in the state. 

The new prison good credit system took effect May 1. It impacts 76,000 inmates – 63,000 of which were convicted of violent crimes and are eligible to earn good behavior credits in an effort to shorten their sentences by one-third, rather than the usual 80%.

“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,” read a statement from Sacramento District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert, who is running for state attorney general. “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 CDCR said it acted under the authority of the voter-approved Proposition 57, which was passed in 2016 and allows parole for most inmates. Under the measure, inmates are incentivized to participate in rehabilitative and educational programs and other activities to earn time for good behavior. 

Earlier this month, 41 district attorneys up and down the state signed a petition in support of overturning the regulations. 

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