There has been a lot of talk about early release of “non-violent offenders” but this example of one state’s (California) early releases, calls that definition into serious question, as reported by the Arden Advocate.
The Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office will begin posting on its website information about “nonviolent second-strike offenders” who have been granted early release from prison.
After a federal court ordered California to reduce prison overcrowding, a number of measures were put into place that result in early prison releases, including early parole consideration for individuals characterized as “nonviolent second-strikers.” In order to qualify, inmates must not currently be serving a sentence for a crime that is legally categorized as a “violent felony” and must not be required to register as sex offenders.
Starting January 1st, 2015, the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) began a new early parole determination process, evaluating “nonviolent second-strikers” for parole once they have served only 50 percent of their sentence or are within 12 months of having served 50 percent of their actual sentence. Upon receipt of inmate names from CDCR with a recommendation for release, the Board of Prison Hearings conducts an administrative review to determine if the inmate should be released from prison or retained for the term otherwise prescribed by law. The Board determines whether an offender would pose an unreasonable risk to public safety based on criminal history, behavior in prison, rehabilitation efforts, and written statements.
The Sacramento District Attorney’s Office takes an active role in evaluating these cases and writes letters to the Board with an overview of the inmate’s criminal history, an opinion regarding the public safety risk posed by the inmate, and the appropriateness of an offender’s early release.
As of November 13th, 2015, 72 inmates sentenced from Sacramento County have been granted early prison releases. Many of these offenders have violent and lengthy criminal histories. Examples of these early releases include:
Victor “Chunky” Montez – A known gang member with a violent criminal history including voluntary manslaughter, assault with a deadly weapon, and resisting arrest as well as drug transportation/possession and ammunition possession convictions. He was also found to be in possession of a large cache of firearms. Montez has been in and out of prison since the 1980s, violating parole seven times.
Deshawn Fisher – Prior convictions include voluntary manslaughter. In the prior offense, Fisher and his co-defendant tried to rob a group of men at gunpoint as they played cards in front of a house. Two men were shot, one died. In prison, Fisher committed battery on inmates, participated in riots, engaged in mutual combat, and threatened an officer’s life among other violent behavior. He violated parole twice by being in possession of firearms, ammunition, and drugs.
James Allen West – Committing offense is assault with a deadly weapon by means of force likely to cause great bodily injury. West beat the victim unconscious, punching and kicking him in the head wearing steel-toed boots. Past convictions include violent assaults and battery with serious bodily injury. One victim was a 75-year-old woman. West beat the other victims until they were unconscious.
Willie C. Harris – Multiple felony convictions, including a 1985 first-degree burglary strike offense. Since 1999, Harris has had seven DUI and driving with a suspended license convictions and a reckless DUI conviction. His committing offense was felony DUI where his blood alcohol level was .17, more than twice the legal limit. At the time of that offense, he was on parole for a 2008 DUI conviction where he had a .19 blood alcohol level.