Judge: Thousands of Sex Offenders May Be Eligible for Release Under Prop. 57

In August, we covered the very public spat between Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims and Gov. Jerry Brown over Proposition 57. Mims, like many members of law enforcement, contended that the ballot measure would mean early release for all sorts of serious offenders, including those convicted of sex crimes. The governor said that wasn’t true, calling her statements “unbecoming of a public official.”

Alas, it looks like Mims was right

California must consider earlier parole for potentially thousands of sex offenders, maybe even those convicted of pimping children, a state judge said Friday. Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Allen Sumner preliminarily ordered prison officials to rewrite part of the regulations for Proposition 57.

The 2016 ballot measure allows consideration of earlier parole for most state prison inmates, but Gov. Jerry Brown promised voters all sex offenders would be excluded.

Judge Sumner said the language of the ballot measure permits no such exclusion.

"If the voters had intended to exclude all registered sex offenders from early parole consideration under Proposition 57, they presumably would have said so," Sumner said.

Plenty of people are expressing shock and disgust over the judge’s decision, but early critics of the ballot measure are literally saying, “we told you so.”

“We repeatedly warned prior to the election that the ambiguities of language in Prop 57 would allow sex offenders to be released early from prison,” writes Michele Hanisee, President of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys, at Fox & Hounds

“Governor Brown drafted Prop 57 ‘himself’ and clearly didn’t understand his own initiative as it related to sex offenders and other violent inmates.”

The San Diego Union-Tribune’s editorial board also published a scathing op-ed about the ruling, noting that it was opposed to Proposition 57 from Day 1.

"What a mess. Gov. Brown’s reputation as the sharpest politician in Sacramento has taken a major blow. And the California Supreme Court’s assertion that his revisions ‘fixed’ Proposition 57 has never seemed more absurd."

In a response to the Tribune piece, Brown said he thinks the court’s decision “is clearly wrong.”

“Proposition 57 vests broad discretion in the secretary of corrections and the Parole Board to protect our community and fashion a rational system of punishment and rehabilitation. This is a job for dedicated and experienced professionals, not cynical politicians. Yes, we can make our system better, and we will.”

Corrections officials have not said whether they plan to appeal the decision.