A plan to release more than 100 inmates in downtown Bakersfield on Thursday was scuttled after public opposition forced the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to walk back the mass drop-off.
CDCR initially scheduled a release of 112 parolees by the Greyhound Bus Station before public officials including Mayor Karen Goh weighed in, asking corrections officials to reconsider.
Goh had contacted CDCR through Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office, expressing concerns about the larger-than-normal release.
As a result, the CDCR said it will redirect all inmates from Tehachapi and California City to other counties, Goh said.
“The release of the large number of inmates in Bakersfield, who are not from Kern County, is unacceptable,” Goh said. “I am grateful that the governor’s office and CDCR have responded to our request for alternate solutions. The public safety of our community is our top priority, and we want to ensure the inmates being released are given the best chance for a successful transition.”
At least 26 inmates from Kern County will be released in Bakersfield, Goh said, however a final number was not provided. Other parolees are expected to be released in Tulare and Kings counties, she said.
The CDCR releases people into Bakersfield every Thursday, according to Bakersfield Police Department spokesman Nathan McCauley. He said the number of released inmates, however, is typically one-third the total scheduled Thursday.
The Kern County District Attorney's Office cited Proposition 57 as the reason for the large release. The law was sold to voters as a way for offenders to get parole eligibility after they completed the full term of a non-violent offense.
However, the DA's office said the law's phrase “full term for the primary offense” has since been interpreted to mean the underlying offense, rather than the full term of the sentence.
For example, under Prop. 57, an inmate convicted of two or more violent felonies and sentenced to life in prison yet whose most recent felony conviction was non-violent would be eligible for early parole despite having only served a small portion of the original sentence.
“The result is that truly nonviolent offenders see little-to-no relief from Prop. 57, while offenders with a history of violence whose last offense happened to be non-violent become eligible for early release,” according to the DA’s office. “Prop 57 now offers a reprieve, not for those who abstain from violence, but for those who have a proclivity for it.”
Inmates will be picked up and brought to the downtown bus station. Parolees will be released a handful at a time, with state correctional officers on hand to make sure they get to a second bus to reach their destination, Goh said.
Inmates from outside the county will receive $200 to help them get to their destination as well as information about re-entry into society, according to CDCR Press Secretary Vicky Waters.
Those on parole “must report to their assigned unit on the first working day following their release, unless other arrangements have been previously made in writing,” she said.
Waters said CDCR is working closely with local officials to “minimize impact to the community and ensure a secure and orderly release.”
“We want officers there in case there are any disruptions and make sure everything is going according to plan,” McCauley said. “Some of these individuals are people who may not get along with each other and could cause problems. We would rather be safe than sorry.”
Assemblyman Vince Fong weighed in, saying he appreciates that CDCR is " taking our local concerns into consideration, yet this burden will weigh on other counties and other Californians will be impacted. Sacramento policies have real public safety and quality of life consequences for all Californians.”