In the United States, we have a long history of charging, sentencing and imprisoning nonviolent offenders. Most of such cases are related to drug use, and many states across the country have mandatory minimum sentencing laws that affect low-level nonviolent drug offenders. In the wake of the opioid addiction crisis in America, both federal and state governments have been working to amend sentencing laws, which impacts millions of Americans.
California is one such state that is working to adopt changes to its tough-on-crime laws. In fact, this November, Californians may be voting on a bill that would expand parole opportunities to thousands of inmates, many of which are serving time for nonviolent offenses, The Los Angeles Times reports. Yesterday, the California Supreme Court ruled (6-1) that the measure did not violate state election law.
Interestingly, the measure which is backed by Governor Jerry Brown seeks to undue laws enacted during the governor’s first tenure—almost forty years ago. The bill, if passed, would give thousands of nonviolent felons a second chance, and Governor Brown hopes that voters agree with the move, according to the article. Brown recognizes that the tough-on-crime laws enacted in the 70’s had “unintended consequences.” Under the bill:
- Parole eligibility would be granted to offenders after serving their core sentence.
- Prisoners would receive more time credit for good behavior.
- Judges would be in charge of determining when minors are charged as adults.
“By allowing parole consideration if they do good things, they will then have an incentive … to show those who will be judging whether or not they’re ready to go back into society,” says Brown.
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