SACRAMENTO – Democrats on the Senate Public Safety Committee today voted down Senate Bill 976 by Senate Republican Leader Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel) that would have prohibited the early release of many dangerous offenders into local communities. Senator Bates authored a similar bill, SB 75 last year, which was also rejected by the Senate Public Safety Committee on a partisan vote.
“The committee’s decision to not stop the potential early release of serious felons and sex offenders is disappointing, disturbing and dangerous,” said Senator Bates. “People who rape unconscious victims or assault peace officers with deadly weapons do not deserve early release because of the physical and emotional harm they have caused, and the threat they still pose to communities. Victims deserve better.”
SB 976 would prohibit early release from state prison to all serious felons and persons required to register as sex offenders. Senator Bates authored SB 976 in response to the passage of Proposition 57 (2016) that made the early release of such persons possible. Under SB 976, some of the crimes that would no longer be eligible for early release include, but are not limited to:
- Human trafficking involving a minor,
- Battery with personal infliction or serious bodily injury,
- Throwing acid or a flammable substance,
- Assault with a deadly weapon on a peace officer or firefighter,
- Rape where the victim is unconscious of the act, and
- Inflicting corporal injury on a child.
Prop. 57 provides parole and good behavior opportunities for prison inmates convicted of “non-violent” crimes and allows judges, not prosecutors, to decide whether to try certain juveniles as adults in court. Opponents of the measure lacked the financial resources to broadly convey the argument that several serious crimes are legally considered “non-violent” and could make such offenders eligible for early release.
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has tried to address some of the sex crime concerns in their emergency regulations, but Senator Bates wants to enshrine those regulations into law. This is because a future governor could rescind those regulations or create new ones that could undermine public safety without a vote of the Legislature or the people.
Furthermore, less than a year after its implementation, a state judge found that the attempt by state prison officials to exempt registered sex offenders from the parole provisions of Proposition 57 to be illegal. In the view of the court, state officials cannot alter the scope of the law as it was passed by the voters.