State inmates serving life terms are starting to file resentencing petitions with local judges following the passage of Proposition 36, the ballot measure that overhauls California's controversial three strikes law. But opposition from local prosecutors and other factors could limit the number of qualifying inmates who actually get released.
Scott Thorpe, CEO of the California District Attorneys Association, said his organization is recommending that district attorneys file subpoenas for the prison records of inmates seeking a resentencing hearing so they can scrutinize everything from the offenders’ health and psychological profile to their participation in rehabilitation programs.
“We’re arguing that everything should be taken into consideration,” he said. “If they haven’t taken advantage of programs that were available to them, we’re saying that’s a relevant fact in determining whether this is a responsible person to go out into society."
Prop. 36 allows sentence reductions for inmates convicted under the original 1994 law if their third strike was not a serious or violent felony (as defined by the California Penal Code) and their prior convictions did not include rape, murder, child molestation or other grave crimes.
Some 2,800 inmates serving life terms could be eligible for shorter sentences or release under the measure, according to data from the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Of those offenders, nearly 70 percent originally were sentenced in five counties: Los Angeles, Kern, San Bernardino, Riverside and San Diego.