Reducing America’s Excessive Incarcerations with Justice

The State of California and three others, Illinois, Oregon and Washington have enacted new laws to obtain release of some current prison inmates who qualify under both of the following conditions:  Their sentence is no longer in the interest of justice, and their remaining sentence is no longer in the interest of society to have it completed.  The new law gives the prosecutor the ability to review old cases for possible release of convicts from the remainder of their sentence. The law is named; Prosecutor-Initiated Resentencing (PIR).  So far, it has been used somewhat over 100 times among the four states.  

The law came into being through the work of Hillary Blout, a former prosecutor for the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, and founder of the nonprofit “For the People”, which works with elected prosecutors to remedy unjust sentences.   Blout also supported passage of the PIR law to the three additional states that have so far adopted it.  

Some additional matters to bring attention to what is at stake are the following.  Long prison sentences are not crucial to increasing public safety.  Adequate sentences are sufficient to act as deterrent, and an understanding of what the prisoner’s attitude has been during incarceration.  Research shows that people age-out of crime and that recidivism rates decline with age and are the lowest among people who have served the longest sentences for serious crimes.  

Blout gives these statistics for the state of California.  The cost of incarceration of one prisoner is $100,000 per year.  In California it is estimated that 26,000 prisoners could be safely released.  In 2018 there were 128,000 prisoners incarcerated in California State Prisons, of which 26,000 might be capable of being released in a single year, but at what rate might some people now incarcerated say for ten or more years be candidates resentencing?    

There are 2,600 elected prosecutors in the United States.  Put them to work to undo what they have wrought; especially if they used “Plea Bargains” to put them into prison in the first place.                                                                                   December 21, 2021