By Janene Scully, Noozhawk North County Editor
District attorneys from the Tri-Counties area have joined with colleagues throughout the state to file a lawsuit challenging the early release of 76,000 prison inmates.
Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley along with District Attorneys Dan Dow of San Luis Obispo County and Erik Nasarenko of Ventura County are among 44 identified as plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
The district attorneys are seeking declaratoryand injunctive relief to prohibit awarding additional conduct credits to more than 76,000 violent and serious offenders.
The CDCR’s plan would shorten sentences as much as 50%, leading to early releases for inmates and would create a public safety risk, the district attorneys said.
The additional credits stem from “emergency regulations” approved — and first made public, the district attorneys noted — on April 30.
In adopting the regulations, and claiming an emergency, CDCR Secretary Kathleen Allison stated that the regulations were necessary to comply with “the direction outlined in the Governor’s Budget Summary” presented in May 2020.
However, the district attorneys argued that the public, including victims and their families, did not have a chance to weigh in about the rules and questioned the claim that the action involved an emergency.
“These regulations have a massive impact on victims’ rights and public safety,” Dudley said. “They were adopted with no public input and a complete lack of transparency. This lawsuit seeks to set aside those regulations so a full, fair and meaningful hearing on the wisdom of these changes can occur.”
“The time is now to consider the impact on victims of crime when making decisions to release serious, violent, and sex offenders from prison early,” Dow said. “This early release program for serious and violent offenders was created under the disguise of a non-existent emergency and is a prime example of how we have neglected survivors of crime when reforming our criminal and victim justice system. The people deserve much better.”
On May 13, the 44 elected district attorneys filed a petition with the CDCR requesting that the agency repeal the “emergency” regulations.
The lawsuit filed Wednesday in Sacramento County Superior Court seeks an order from a judge to declare the regulations as illegal and prohibit the CDCR from awarding additional credits until the state agency completes “a transparent and rigorous public comment period.’
— Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.