By Scott Kernan, CDCR Secretary
On May 1, 2017, the first phase of the historic Proposition 57 regulations will begin. On that date, all inmates, with the exception of the condemned and those serving life without parole, will begin earning good-conduct credit. Allowing inmates to earn credits towards parole suitability or earlier release gives them hope where previously they had none. The responsibility for earning credits is solidly placed on the individual inmate. The remaining phases of Proposition 57 will be implemented this summer. While there are many good reasons to make these changes, the most important to me is the enhancement to the safety of our staff and the citizens of California.
In 1976, Governor Brown changed the law so that sentences became determinate. Do the crime – pay the time. However, an advantage of indeterminate sentencing was that it provided a very basic incentive to inmates. They had to show sustained positive behavior during the course of their incarceration and correctional professionals determined when they were suitable for release. In the absence of that basic incentive, many inmates lack motivation to improve themselves during their incarceration. It’s indisputable that more than 90 percent of our inmates will be released to our communities. Proposition 57 incentivizes these inmates to do something if they want to earn earlier release. It encourages rehabilitation which fosters a safer environment for those who seek to improve their lives and prepare for transition back into our society. This truly is a historic reform that will change how we incarcerate in this State.
The main purpose of this message, however, is to recognize the monumental effort our Department has made in implementing this reform. It has been no easy task developing the regulations, engaging our diverse stakeholders, completely re-engineering our SOMS sentencing calculator, and communicating to the world these complicated changes. Staff from across this organization has stepped up to deliver this reform ahead of schedule. Literally every division had a hand in this extraordinary work and I could not be prouder of this Department.
We have much work still to do, but the effort by individuals and work groups to accomplish a reform of this magnitude cannot be overstated. I publicly thank you all for your commitment and professionalism. You had a hand in creating public-safety policy that will live on in this State for decades to come. You represented CDCR and the state of California with distinction. Thank you!
All across this Department positive change is happening – incremental progress in an imperfect system. The Governor and I, and our State, are proud of CDCR and the hard-working men and women who are making a difference. It’s been a decade since we put the “R” in our organization’s name. The changes underway make that “R” truly mean something. Now the hard work begins with the responsibility of facilitating rehabilitative programming throughout the system. Let’s be smart on crime and understand that today’s inmate is tomorrow’s neighbor.
Editor’s note: If you have questions, please consult our Proposition 57 web page. If you have questions about how Proposition 57 might affect your loved one in prison, the inmate should speak with his or her correctional counselor.