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 upon the inmate’s 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 announced it would begin posting on its website information about “non-violent second-strike” offenders who have been granted early release from prison. [View Original Press Release]
As of March 1, 2016, 114 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 will begin 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 February 2016, inmates granted early prison release include:
Christopher Watts – Watts has a 1998 strike conviction for an armed robbery in Illinois. In that case, Watts and his associate wore masks as they robbed a gas station convenience store at gun point. He received an 8 year, 6 month prison sentence in Illinois and was released on parole to California in 2004. Just three years later, Watts committed a serious and prolonged act of domestic violence, which forms the basis of his current prison commitment. In 2007, Watts repeatedly threatened to kill the victim and her three children if she tried to leave him. At one point, he held a gun to the victim’s neck and used a knife to threaten her life. Watts had a video of a domestic violence murder showing a husband walking up to his wife and shooting her in the back of the head several times. Watts watched it frequently and forced the victim to watch it to intimidate her. This “non-violent” domestic violence case involved several lethality factors – use of multiple weapons, threats to kill the victim and her children, and the sadistic attempt to control her by fear and intimidation. He was convicted of felony terrorist threats and possession for sale of rock cocaine while armed with a firearm and was sentenced to 17 years in prison. Opposition Letter
Curtis Colvard – Colvard has a 2005 prior felony conviction for assault with a deadly weapon. In that offense, Colvard put a knife to his then girlfriend’s neck, cut her neck, and dug into her wrist with the knife. In a separate case in 2006, he was convicted of felony domestic violence and a strike offense of felony dissuading a victim or witness. In that case, Colvard punched a different girlfriend in the face multiple times and threatened to kill her if he went to jail for the assault. After release from prison on his 2006 offense, Colvard was convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence. Thereafter, he was incarcerated for several violations of parole. He was released just one year prior to his current commitment offense, which occurred in 2013. Colvard was the passenger in a vehicle involved in a high speed chase and was convicted of possessing a sawed-off shotgun and being a felon in possession of a firearm. He received a sentence of 6 years, 4 months for those offenses. Opposition Letter
Jahmi Radney – Radney has a 2003 strike conviction for armed robbery. Radney and an associate, who was armed with a handgun, were stranded on the roadside without gas when a good Samaritan stopped to help them. They responded by robbing him. He was granted probation on that offense, but failed to participate in drug treatment, pursue employment, or even attend his scheduled probation appointments. In 2005, he was convicted of felony assault. In that case, Radney punched his girlfriend in the head, causing her to lose consciousness between kicks to her face, ribs, and arm. In 2012, he committed the offense for which he is currently serving time. Radney was loitering in front of a hotel. As officers approached him, Radney reached into his left pocket before he was quickly detained. A loaded handgun was found in that same left pocket as well as 14 individually packaged baggies of methamphetamine in his waistband. He was convicted of possession for sale of methamphetamine while being armed with a semi-automatic firearm and was sentenced to his current term of 7 years in prison. Opposition Letter
The Early Prison Releases webpage can be found at www.sacda.org/early prison releases.
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