In order to decrease the number of individuals incarcerated and under probation and parole supervision, the County of Santa Clara is focusing on developing a comprehensive effort that addresses the needs and risks of former offenders. The County's Reentry Program represents a new way of doing business.
On March 1, 2011, the Board of Supervisors established a cross-system Re-Entry Network to develop and implement a re-entry plan for the county. The Network is expected to identify comprehensive re-entry and recidivism reduction strategies to elevate existing efforts, streamline processes to link inmates to effective in-custody and community-based programming, identify cost-saving methods, and prepare Santa Clara County for the realignment of parolees and low-level prisoners under the Public Safety Realignment Act (AB109).
In an effort to reduce the number of offenders incarcerated in the California prison system and assist in alleviating the State's financial crisis, AB 109 was signed into law on April 4, 2011. Subsequently, on June 30, 2011, AB 117 was signed by Governor Brown, further outlining the provisions of Realignment. This Act shifts the responsibility for inmates convicted of non-serious, non-violent, non-sex offenses to local jurisdictions by requiring them to serve their sentence in local jails rather than in State prisons, pursuant to the newly added Penal Code §1170(h). All inmates serving local sentences will now come under the post-release supervision of local agencies, Post Release Community Supervision (PRCS) offenders. Additionally, this legislation changes the sentencing laws to keep these offenders from being committed to State prisons.
CRUEL AND UNUSUAL Documentary by Sam Banning
Sam Banning investigates the historic change to California’s Three Strikes law enacted in 1994, which was the harshest sentencing law in the United States. In 2012, California voters approved by a margin of 69% to 31%, Proposition 36, which changed the most draconian aspects of the law and gave over 3,500 non-violent three strikers eligibility for an early release.
CRUEL AND UNUSUAL also tells the stories of three individuals sentenced to life under Three Strikes for minor, non-violent crimes, including writing a bad check, shoplifting a VCR, and taking a slice of pizza. Among the many voices featured on the documentary are former California Superior Court Judge La Doris Cordell, County of Santa Clara District Attorney Jeff Rosen, County of Santa Clara Public Defender Molly O’Neal, and Deputy Public Defender Michelle Vasquez. The documentary also features the County’s Re-Entry Resource Center, which offers training and wraparound supportive services to help clients like Greg Wilks to successfully reintegrate into their communities as law abiding, productive residents.
Kudos to Stanford professors David Mills and Michael Romano, who co-wrote Proposition 36, and to the Three Strikes Project Team for your work to end an unjust law and seek the release of non-violent offenders who have served disproportionate sentences.