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Saturday, December 19, 2015

Parole For Young Lifers

January, 2016 will herald the implementation of SB 261, which extends the factors of Youth Offender Parole Hearings (YOPH) to those lifers and long-serving determinate sentenced prisoners who were under 23 years old at the time of their crime. And while the factors of eligibility for the two bills are the same (under 23, not a sex crime, no conviction for additional serious/sex crime after the age of 23 and having served a minimum time, based on sentence) the timing of those coming to parole hearings under 261 will be substantially different..
Under the original YOPH bill, SB 260, the BPH had a total of 18 months to bring everyone affected by the bill to a parole hearing. This feat was accomplished, but not without fallout. Specifically, many determinate sentenced prisoners, coming to their first ever parole hearing in the last 6 months of the implementation period, were unprepared, both from a programming and rehabilitation standpoint, resulting is a dismal 5% grant rate for this cohort. And, because of the increased number of CRAs required, the FAD fell behind in preparing the evaluations, causing many prisoners to face their hearing with a CRA they had received mere days earlier.
Because of these findings, and because the number of prisoners potentially impacted under SB 261 is so large (an early estimate is perhaps 9,700) the legislature passed a companion bill to SB 261, SB 519, which allows for considerable alternation in the original time frame for hearings to take place. The two bills were passed out of the legislature together, signed by Gov. Brown on the same day and will go into effect in unison.
Instead of 18 months the BPH will now have two full years to bring all life term inmates who qualify for YOPH under the new age considerations to a hearing, either initial or subsequent. The hearings for lifers under 261 will begin in January, 2016 and must take place by the end of 2017. For those DSL inmates who qualify for 261, the board now has until the end of 2021 to bring those individuals to a parole hearing.
And while possibly waiting an additional 6 months in the case of lifers, or a few more years in the case of DSL inmates, might seem disappointing at first SB 261 still has the potential to cut years off a lifer’s sentence and for those DSL inmates serving impossibly long, virtual toe-tag sentences, 261 can be a real life-line. The additional time will also, it is anticipated, allow the FAD to complete and provide the required CRAs in a more timely fashion.
There are other, less impactful differences and nuances in the two bills as well as new procedures for implementing SB 261, all of which are too lengthy to detail in a short newsletter. Specifics of these details are being sent to prisons, for dissemination to the inmate population, and for the edification of correctional counselors. Whether or not the information actually reaches inmates is anyone’s guess.
The BPH has prepared a comprehensive 3 page explanation of these new developments, covering many areas of concern, including how notifications will be made, who will determine eligibility for inclusion in SB 261, how the new bill will affect PTA and other hearing scheduling matters. LSA will forward this document to any inmate who requests the report, along with explanatory notations on each section. More, in depth information will also be available in the December issue of CLN.
We can also provide an explanation of consultation hearings, which will be occurring for many inmates in the coming months in preparation for eventual consideration under YOPH. There is no charge for this information, however, stamps or SASE are helpful to our staff and budget.
Please send your requests to: LSA, PO BOX 277, Rancho Cordova, Ca. 95741 and mark the outer envelope : SB 261/519.

As previously announced, beginning in January CRAs will be done every 3 years instead of every 5 years and no Supplemental Risk Assessments will be done..

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