By Seth Augenstein . . . California voters overwhelmingly passed a ballot initiative in November 2016 calling for criminal sentencing reform. The centerpiece of Proposition 57, a major initiative pushed by Gov. Jerry Brown, was to allow release of those convicted of “nonviolent felony offenses” after they had served their full prison terms.
The catch: Prop 57 never defined what “nonviolent felony offenses” are. And despite promises that sex offenders would be kept behind bars for longer stints due to added regulations by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, it appears the law will be applied equally among most felons.
A state Superior Court has now ruled that the prison system’s attempt to expand the law to explicitly exclude sex offenders from early release was an overreach—and the judge asks the CDCR to define just who the “nonviolent felony offenders” are.
“Proposition 57 did not define what is a ‘nonviolent felony offense,’” the judge ruled in his decision last week. “Proposition 57 states any person convicted of a ‘nonviolent felony offense’ is eligible for early parole consideration. CDCR essentially inserts the phrase ‘except registered sex offenders’ into the text of the initiative.
“The court cannot insert words into an initiative to achieve what the court presumes to be the voters’ unexpressed intent; neither can CDCR,” the court adds.