SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Majorities in every California county voted last fall to scale back the state’s Three Strikes law so thousands of inmates serving life sentences for relatively minor third offenses would have the chance to be set free.
Five months later, there is no such unanimity among counties when it comes to carrying out the voters’ wishes.
Whether a third-strike felon eventually will gain freedom varies greatly depending on the county that sent him away, according to an Associated Press analysis of California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation data.
In San Bernardino County, which has the second highest number of eligible inmates, 33 percent of the 291 Three Strikes inmates have been granted release under Proposition 36. But in Los Angeles and San Diego counties, just 6 percent of the nearly 1,300 eligible inmates have had their sentences reduced so far.
In Madera County, zero of the 15 eligible inmates have been freed. In Fresno County, five of the 55 eligible have — 11 percent. Statewide, 16 percent of 2,847 eligible inmates have been resentenced.
Defense attorneys blame prosecutors in some counties for opposing inmate petitions for resentencing even in cases where the prisoner clearly qualifies for early release under the language of Proposition 36. Those oppositions require time-consuming court hearings and written arguments.
Proposition 36 was backed by 68 percent of voters. It modified the state’s 1996 Three Strikes law that stipulated a life sentence for a third felony conviction even if it was for a low-level offense such as stealing a bicycle.