Legislative Changes, New Policies Intended to Improve Parole System While Reducing the Overall Inmate Population
SACRAMENTO – The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) on Monday will launch, as required by a new law, public safety reforms to encourage inmates to complete rehabilitation programs, to improve supervision for high-risk parolees and to better partner with communities in managing minor parole violators.
By prioritizing supervision, creating incentives for inmates to complete programs that are proven to reduce recidivism, and with the addition of other reforms, California’s prison population is expected to be gradually reduced by about 6,500 inmates over the next year.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in October signed Senate Bill x3 18, authored by Sen. Denise Ducheny (D-San Diego), which also adjusts property crimes for inflation and requires CDCR to assess the risk of each parolee. The new law improves the current parole system by allowing parole agents to focus supervision on the more serious offenders, reducing parole agent caseloads, creating a new line of field supervision for field agents including field training officers, and implementing a new outcome-based case planning process that provides incentives for parolee success.
“I consider this reform to be a landmark achievement in improving public safety in California,” said CDCR Secretary Matthew Cate. “This fundamentally changes how we view successful parole supervision from a system that focused mainly on revocation to one that measures both public safety and how well parolees reintegrate into society.”
Improving Parole Supervision
The new law and reforms will improve the parole system in several important ways, including:
Creates a system of “summary” or “non-revocable” parole for certain low-risk parolees. These low-risk parolees will be subject to standard parole search and seizure conditions but will not be subject to traditional parole supervision upon their release from prison. This creates a $100 million savings while allowing agents to focus their attention on higher-risk parolees deemed more of a risk to the public;
Establishes and expands drug and mental health reentry courts for parolees to receive highly-structured treatment rather than being returned to prison for violations that may be related to those needs;
Codifies the recently implemented “parole violation decision making instrument” which helps determine the most appropriate sanctions for parolees who violate their conditions of parole based on their risk to reoffend;
In addition to the reforms established in SB x3 18, CDCR will implement parole reform strategies to protect public safety, including:
Reducing agent caseloads to an average of 48 parolees for one agent from the previous ratio of 70 to one. This gives agents a better opportunity to supervise parolees more aggressively, and interact more frequently with local law enforcement, rehabilitative service providers and other community partners;
Placing 1,000 parolee gang members on active GPS supervision and will add 2,000 electronic tracking devices for parole violators as an alternative to incarceration;
Increases monitoring requirements for sex offenders on parole who are supervised using Global Positioning System;
Reclassifying some existing parole positions to create 190 parole supervisors to oversee line-level parole agents;
Adding 30 field training officers to maintain proper training standards for parole agents; and
Using measurement guidelines for supervision that focuses on a parolees successful transition into the community rather than how many times they are revoked.
“These new laws and policies will transform how California supervises parolees that are actively living in our communities today,” said Secretary Cate.
Inmates Can Earn Time Credits
The new law will allow offenders incarcerated in a California prison to earn up to six weeks per year off their sentences by completing certain rehabilitation programs such as earning a GED or obtaining a vocational certificate. These programs are proven to reduce crime and assist in a successful transition into society.
In addition to the six week incentive, the new law will:
Extend existing time credits to include day-for-day credit for time served in the county jail from the time of arrest for specified offenders;
Provide two days of sentence credit for every one day after an inmate completes firefighting training;
Provide two days of sentence credit for every one day an inmate works in an institution firehouse; and
Provide a consistent rule of one day of credit for every day served for all eligible inmates whether they are on a waiting list for a full-time assignment, participating in programs, or undergoing reception center processing, so long as the inmate is discipline-free during that time;
Continue policies that cause inmates to lose credits for criminal misconduct, rules violations and violence in prison.
Increases Monetary Limits of Theft Crimes
The minimum monetary value for some grand theft crimes, such as theft by an employee, access card theft, and theft of a dog, have increased to $950 from the previous $400 threshold. The threshold for basic grand theft will remain unchanged.
Improve Local Probation Supervision
The state will be authorized to annually allocate money into a State Corrections Performance Incentives Fund to be used to improve local probation supervision practices and capacities. Specifically, the money targets community corrections, keeping low-level probationers out of state prison, and shares any cost savings with local entities.
For additional information regarding non-Revocable Parole, please see our Parole Section.