Governor Gavin Newsom and Inmate Releases Amid Covid-19 (Coronavirus)

Governor Gavin Newsom and Inmate Releases Amid Covid-19 (Coronavirus)

Since assuming office in January 2019, Governor Gavin Newsom has proven himself a firm proponent of broader criminal justice reforms. He has been supportive of bills to address prison overcrowding and rehabilitative/reentry measures for California prison inmates. 

Since the announcement of the California Major Disaster Declaration due to Covid-19 (Coronavirus) on March 22, 2020; much focus has been placed on prison sentence commutations and alternative sentences. Specifically when it comes to prison releases, within weeks of the emergency Governor Newsom had commuted sentences of 21 California prison inmates and granted pardons to half a dozen others. This includes over a dozen inmates convicted of homicides. As Coronavirus spreads into the prison system, the Governor’s office has taken immediate measures to reduce crowding and protect the population’s health.

What Does Covid-19 (Coronavirus) Mean For Prison Inmates?

Governor Newsom’s office is taking unprecedented measures with the prison system during this health crisis. They include locking down facilities, shutting down inmate visitation and volunteer programs, blocking transfer of county jail inmates to prisons, and creating distance measures in custody from dorm to dorm and between inmates and prison employees. 

The Governor’s office has now gone a step further making sentence commutations and immediately releasing prison inmates. Over 3,500 inmates are to be released early due to the crisis. 

These early releases are occurring throughout California’s 35 prisons for inmates who are scheduled for release in the next sixty (60) days and for those who meet sentence relief criteria. Lawyers representing inmates in ongoing appeals and resentencing petitions are putting pressure on the prisons and Courts to take more action. 

When it comes to commuted sentences, Governor Newsom’s office said via a press release that now “In addition to the public safety and justice factors that the governor normally considers when reviewing clemency cases, he also considered the public health impact of each grant, as well as each inmate’s individual health status and the suitability of their post-release plans, including housing.” Thus far nearly all of those granted commutations were convicted of violent crimes. 

How Can I Get Early Release?

Sentence commutations and early release dates are being achieved using complex measures. It is critical to file the necessary petitions with the correct parties and carefully monitor these filings. In particular nonviolent crimes and inmates with upcoming release dates can petition for early release. Violent crimes and individuals with vulnerable health conditions may pursue sentence commutations.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation can be challenging to navigate at any time. More so now that employee restrictions and facility reorganizations can lead to confusion and delays. It is of the utmost importance to assess each case’s factors individually and make a clear plan.

What Do I Do Now?

If you or a relative or friend is currently in custody serving a sentence or awaiting sentencing to a California State Prison or County Jail Facility, you may be eligible for relief. It is critical you consult with an experienced and qualified Criminal Defense Lawyer. Our California team has years of experience researching, strategizing, and preparing filings. Remember, an early release can also provide life-saving if the inmate is high-risk for health issues. Contact us now for a Free Consultation.

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