In January 2015, the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) began a new parole determination process, evaluating “non-violent second-strikers” for early parole. If early release is granted, they are released after serving only 50% of their sentences. Under existing law, they would otherwise have to serve 80% of their sentences before being eligible for parole.
Upon receipt of inmate names from CDCR with a recommendation for release, the Board of Parole Hearings [BPH] conducts an administrative review to determine if the inmate should be released early from prison as a ‘non-violent second-striker.’ BPH forwards the names of these eligible inmates to District Attorneys’ offices and invites input in making their determination about the inmate’s potential early release. Unlike parole hearings, where the prosecution, defense attorney and victim may appear, there is no public hearing for these administrative reviews. Rather, the decision is made purely by CDCR administrative staff. Additionally, prior to consideration for early release, no evidence-based “risk assessment” is conducted to determine if the inmate poses a danger to the public.
The Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office takes an active role in evaluating these cases and writes letters to the Board with an overview of the inmate’s criminal history and current commitment offense, an opinion regarding the public safety risk posed by the inmate, and the appropriateness of an offender’s early release. The Board determines whether an offender would pose an unreasonable risk to public safety based on their prior criminal history, facts behind their current commitment offense, behavior in prison, rehabilitation efforts, whether the inmate has any medical condition which might affect his ability to re-offend, and written statements.
In November 2015, the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office began posting on its website information about “non-violent second-strike” offenders who have been granted early release from prison.
As of October 31, 2016, 179 inmates sentenced from Sacramento County have been granted early prison releases. Given the number of violent offenders who continue to be granted early release, DA Anne Marie Schubert began monthly updates to provide the public with a sampling of the noteworthy criminals who appear to pose a risk to public safety, but are being granted early release into our community as ‘non-violent second-strikers.’
In the month of October 2016, inmates granted early prison release include:
Shalon Jones (Case #15F04353) – In 1995, Jones shot an unarmed victim in the neck during a game of dominoes because of his allegiance to his criminal street gang. When Jones shot the victim with the .32 caliber pistol that he had in his waistband, he calmly stated, “You all gonna have to respect me.” The victim was a disabled person confined to a wheelchair when Jones shot him. Two months later, the victim died and Jones was convicted of involuntary manslaughter. Despite having killed another human being with a gun and knowing he is banned from possessing guns and ammunition for the rest of his life, Jones continued to possess firearms. Since that conviction, Jones has been convicted multiple times of being a felon in possession of guns and ammunition and sentenced to state prison for this conduct. His current committing offense was in May 2015. The victim in this case was told that a check he had written to a business was stolen. Yet in July 2015, Jones is seen on surveillance video cashing a fraudulent check for close to $1,000 on the victim’s account. Jones knew he did not have permission to cash the check, but took advantage of the victim. Jones was convicted of felony identity theft and received a sentence of 32 months in prison. Opposition Letter
Ryland George Hill (Case #12F05465) – Hill has a prior 1992 strike conviction for a violent robbery. In that case, Hill and a co-conspirator tricked the victim into opening his front door in order to rob him. Once the victim opened the door, Hill brandished a large butcher knife, held the knife to the victim’s throat, and threatened to cut the victim. The victim was able to break free and arm himself with a weapon to fend off his attackers. Since his strike conviction, Hill has had a continued course of criminal conduct. His current commitment offenses took place in July 2012 when Hill was arrested for drinking and driving with a blood alcohol content of .11%. On that occasion, Hill led law enforcement officers on a pursuit, which eventually led to his arrest. While out on bail for that offense which was his sixth DUI, in August 2012, Hill assaulted his girlfriend, punched his girlfriend’s friend, and again led officers on a pursuit where he was later found to be under the influence of alcohol with a blood alcohol content of .17%. He was convicted of 10 counts, including his seventh DUI, domestic violence, battery, evasion of law enforcement, and driving without a license as well as for having a prior strike. Hill was sentenced to his current term of 8 years and 8 months in prison. In Hill’s words, “So sometimes I drink and drive a little bit. My father drank and drove and so did his father and they were both respected men in their communities. The rest of the country man, they would laugh at what happens in California, DUI. That doesn’t matter, man. DUI is nothing.” Opposition Letter
Paul Avitia (Case #15F04663) – Avitia has a 1994 strike conviction for assault with a firearm. In that case, Avitia and two of his gang associates got into an altercation with individuals in another vehicle. Avitia then got out of his car and began shooting at the occupants of the other vehicle. A later search of Avitia’s home revealed a .9 millimeter handgun and a scale with methamphetamine residue. He was sentenced to 6 years in prison for these offenses. In 2008, Avitia was convicted of felony grand theft, felony burglary and several misdemeanors, including domestic violence, and misdemeanor child abuse or endangerment. Avitia’s commitment offense is for being a felon in possession of a firearm. In this case, officers were serving a search warrant in Avitia’s residence and found a .45 Glock handgun with a magazine containing nine live rounds. Additionally, they found a large quantity of marijuana, 38 Hydrocodone pills, $4,435 in cash, and ‘grow lights’ in the garage. During service of the search warrant, individuals came to the residence to buy marijuana. Over Avitia’s 22-year career history, Avitia has shot at others with a loaded firearm, has been shot at himself, and continued to arm himself as he engages in the dangerous occupation of drug dealing. Opposition Letter
The Early Prison Releases webpage can be found at www.sacda.org/early prison releases.
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