Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Criminal transparency bill killed in committee

California Assembly Democrats voted unanimously last week to kill Assemblymember Diane Dixon’s (R-Newport Beach) Assembly Bill 15. The bill would have shined a light on why inmates are released early from prison.

“I’m disappointed the Public Safety Committee killed a common sense measure,” Dixon said in a news release. “My bill would have created much needed transparency when it comes to understanding why violent felons are released before serving their full sentence imposed by our justice system.”

Dixon introduced the bill following a mass shooting last April that happened several blocks from the State Capitol. Three people were charged with murder, including a violent felon who was in illegal possession of a firearm and a machine gun. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) confirmed the man was released from prison a month before the shooting, only having served a little over five years of a 10-year sentence.

“This legislation was bicameral and bipartisan,” Dixon commented. “We all believe in transparency in government. The Corrections Department, a public agency, is no different. There is no reason it should have failed passage.”

Following the shooting, CDCR denied a Public Records Act request inquiring how the violent felon, who was released from prison a month before, earned his early release. The Department argued that credit-earning information was confidential.

AB 15 solves this transparency issue by amending the Public Records Act to provide that the calculation of a prison inmate’s release date, and a summary of how the inmate earned any release credits, is not confidential and is a public record subject to disclosure, Dixon said.

“It is concerning to me that we do not know why a criminal capable of homicide was released early from prison,” she added. “AB 15 would have created an avenue for the public to inquire with the Department to learn this key information. This is a simple remedy that could help our communities feel safer.”

Dixon has requested the committee reconsider AB 15 next year. ■

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