Riverside County’s Top Prosecutor Joins Suit to Stop Potential Release of Prisoners

City News Service

Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin announced Wednesday that he’s joining the top prosecutors in more than 40 other counties in a lawsuit to stop the potential release of 76,000 prisoners under a program implemented by state officials without public input.

“Victims and their families deserve to be heard on how these regulations might affect them and public safety in general,” Hestrin said, adding that some of the inmates who could receive early parole have been convicted of violent felonies.

A total of 44 counties have signed onto the civil action against the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. They are seeking a temporary injunction to prevent any possible early release of inmates without a “transparent and rigorous period for public comment” first being established, according to the DAs.

The lawsuit will be heard in Sacramento County Superior Court. No initial hearing date has been set yet.

In a five-page petition submitted earlier this month, the district attorneys criticized CDCR Secretary Kathleen Allison’s declaration last month of an emergency under Penal Code section 5058.3 in order to turn the 76,000 inmates’ into candidates for good time credits based on their behavior while incarcerated and participation in rehabilitation programs.

Agency representative Dana Simas told City News Service on May 13 that the emergency regulatory change announced by the agency complies with voter- approved Proposition 57 from 2016.

“It gave CDCR the authority to submit regulations to provide opportunities for incarcerated people to receive `good conduct credits,”‘ Simas said.

Officials previously said use of the Penal Code provision offering “minimum security credit” and “inmate credit earning” is based on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s 2020-21 fiscal year budget priorities.

Simas denied there would be automatic early release of any prisoner. The CDCR did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit.

Hestrin and the 43 other DAs allege Allison acted outside the scope of what’s permitted under state law, and there was no justification for declaring an emergency to implement the credit program.

According to the prosecutors, under the Government Code, and particularly the California Administrative Procedure Act, CDCR is required to provide public noticing and a comment period, of at least 45 days, prior to moving ahead with an operational change as significant as the one on the table.

Simas replied that a public comment period is planned, but there were no specifics on when it might begin and end.

There was also no word on how many of the 76,000 inmates are from Riverside County.

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