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Thousands of inmates may see release under prop 36 - Los Angeles

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
February 13th, 2013
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A single Los Angeles judge is reducing sentences for some 1,000 inmates who were sentenced under that state's relatively harsh "three strikes law." The three strikes law was responsible for seeing thousands of people condemned to life imprisonment for relatively minor infractions, based on their criminal history.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Some offenses were no more than petty theft, but they were enough to land thousands of inmates behind bars, for life. California's infamous three strikes law, sent thousands of petty criminals to prison for life, if they had prior convictions for more serious crimes.

The law has been blamed in part for overcrowding the state's prisons and skyrocketing costs. With the state facing financial difficulty, the legislature, led by Governor Jerry Brown, teamed with voters to pass Proposition 36, which made thousands of inmates eligible for resentencing if they were locked up under the three strikes law.

The first case arrived in Los Angeles a day before prop 36 was passed. 

The country has decided to appoint a single judge to handle all of the cases, Judge William C. Ryan. The decisions was made to promote judicial consistency in the resentencing.

Although he only began resentencing cases on Monday, several inmates will see freedom within days as their sentences are reduced, often well below the time they have already served.

Inmates who have served time beyond their sentence will be immediately released and will not be under the supervision of parole or probation. Legally, they cannot be placed under such supervision - they are immediately free to go.

Many of the inmates are elderly and have already served much of their life behind bars. Their release will be difficult, compelling them to survive on their own without the structure and support of the prison environment. Despite the lack of relative structure, freedom is greatly preferred.

Other inmates do pose a concern for prosecutors. Several inmates that will inevitably be released committed crimes while in prison, including drug offenses and even assaults. Some of these individuals will be released again too, without the legal right for the judge to order them into counseling or supervision.

The fear is that these individuals will immediately re-offend, creating new victims and returning to the prison system.

Other eligible inmates and their advocates say they have reformed following the passage of the 1999 law, and are ready to return to police society.

What happens next depends on each individual's choices, and what support systems they may have.

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