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ELECTION BRIEFS: Prop 57 - Criminal sentencing

"Day 36/366.....I Voted," by Flickr user Denise Cross Photography. Used under CC BY 2.0. Cropped and overlaid with text.

Proposition 57 is all about how people get in and out of California’s prisons. It can be broken down into two parts.

First, Prop 57 would change the way young people are tried in court. Right now, prosecutors can decide if defendants — as young as 14 — should be tried as adults. Prop 57 would ensure that they first get a hearing in juvenile court. There, a judge would decide if they should be transferred to the adult system. The stakes are high because sentences in the adult system are a lot harsher.

Prop 57 also affects adult inmates who are already in the prison system. If the proposition passes, inmates serving time for nonviolent felonies would have an earlier chance to make their case to the parole board. And inmates would have more opportunities to reduce their sentence by completing job training or other rehabilitative programs.

Governor Brown has championed Prop 57 as a way to reduce prison populations and correct tough-on-crime legislation of the past few decades. So far, Brown and the California Democratic party have raised almost nine million dollars for Prop 57.

Opponents, mostly District Attorneys and law enforcement, say that Prop 57 is poorly written. They say it could lead to the early release of felons whose crimes may be horrendous but don’t fall under the narrow legal definition of a "violent crime." The opposition has raised almost 300,000 dollars.

A "yes" vote on Prop 57 would give nonviolent adult offenders an earlier chance at parole and give judges, not prosecutors, the power to decide if a juvenile should be transferred to adult court. Voting no would keep these processes as they are today.

Citizen respondents to KALW's elections call-out contributed to this post. Our call-outs are part of our community reporting project.