California Supreme Court: Nonviolent sex offenders may be eligible for early parole

Tuesday, December 29, 2020 | Tag Cloud Tags: , , , ,

by Karen Faulkner, Worthy News Correspondent

(Worthy News) – The California Supreme Court ruled Monday that prisoners convicted of nonviolent sex crimes may be eligible for early parole, the LA Times reports. This eligibility excludes anyone serving time for violent acts like rape and sodomy but may result in early parole for prisoners convicted of crimes the state does not consider violent – including pimping, incest, indecent exposure, and possessing child pornography.

The concept of eligibility for early parole in California was raised in 2014 by Former Gov. Jerry Brown, who advocated for this measure as a way to reduce the prison population and accelerate parole for non-violent offenders, the LA Times reports. Two-thirds of the California electorate then voted in favor of the initiative in 2016. Even so, Brown and others have repeatedly stated they did not intend for the measure to cover sex offenders.

Nevertheless, first the lower courts, and now California’s Supreme Court, determined that the language of the initiative did not exclude nonviolent sex offenders. “The initiative’s language provides no indication that the voters intended to allow the (Corrections) Department to create a wholesale exclusion from parole consideration based on an inmate’s sex offense convictions when the inmate was convicted of a nonviolent felony,” California SC Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye wrote in the unanimous decision.

Both the California Corrections Department and the Supreme Court have emphasized that eligibility for early parole does not automatically mean a sex offender will be released before the end of their sentence: the measure leaves the parole board “ample room to protect public safety,” the justices said.

“The Board of Parole Hearings may consider an inmate’s prior or current sex offense convictions when evaluating the inmate’s suitability for parole,” the justices added. However, the board can no longer refuse “even the mere possibility of parole to an entire category” of prisoners, the LA Times reports.

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