Assembly Bill 2942 went into effect in January, and with it an avenue for prosecutors to seek reduced sentences for inmates whose prison sentences are unduly harsh. California’s notorious “Three Strikes” law has allowed judges to mete out extremely long punishments to people who commit nonviolent offenses.
The Three Strikes sentencing law was enacted in 1994. It gave judges the power to sentence repeat felons to state prison for twice the term otherwise provided for the crime. The law mandated that defendants, who are convicted of a felony having two or more prior strikes, receive a state prison term of at least 25 years to life.
In 2012, the law was amended through the voters’ support of Proposition 36. The bill’s passage added a serious or violent felony clause. Meaning a state prison term of at least 25 years to life could only be doled out by judges to people whose third strike meets specific requirements. Moreover, Prop 36 also gave three-strike inmates a chance to petition the courts for a reduced sentence.
Assembly Bill 2942
Last week, a San Diego man was given a second chance at life after serving 16 years of a 50 years to life sentence, The San Diego Tribune reports. The change in fortune for Kent Joy Williams wouldn’t have been possible if it were not for Assembly Bill 2942.
Williams was not a violent offender, but he was known as someone who would burgle homes when the victims were in residence, a crime otherwise referred to as a “hot-prowl.” He was breaking into homes to support a drug habit, according to the article. Williams is now 15 years drug-free and says he hopes to mentor others.
AB-2942 gives judges and prosecutors new authority to rethink harsh prison sentences. Before the new law, such power was exclusively for the state Parole Board and the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. San Diego District Attorney Summer Stephan requested a sentence review for Williams and Judge Albert Harutunian re-sentenced him to 16 years — time served and three years of parole. Had it not been for the intervention, Williams’ first chance at parole would have been in 2052.
“Our criminal justice system is not working the way it is should be,” said Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, who carried the bill on behalf of San Francisco prosecutor Hillary Blout. “AB 2942 gives people a second chance.”
Southern California Criminal Defense Attorney
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