Written by Nicholas Vetrisek
The California Supreme Court recently made a ruling that nonviolent sex offenders can be eligible for parole under a ballot measure passed in 2014.
Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, speaking for the justices in the unanimous court decision stated, “The initiative’s language provides no indication that the voters intended to allow the (Corrections) Department to create a wholesale exclusion from parole consideration based on an inmate’s sex offense convictions when the inmate was convicted of a nonviolent felony.”
Even proponents of Prop 20, the 2014 measure, are baffled by this decision. Former Gov. Jerry Brown, a major supporter of the measure due to it reducing California prison populations, has repeatedly said that the initiative was never meant to cover sex offenders.
California law classifies things like rape, sodomy, and continuous sexual abuse of a child as violent offenses, so anyone who committed those crimes is not covered under this ruling. However, crimes like pimping, incest, indecent exposure, possessing child pornography, and more are left out of the “violent crime” definition.
The ruling gives roughly 20,000 sex criminals the opportunity for early parole.
Sacramento Attorney Janice Bellucci called the ruling “a significant victory” for inmates convicted of sex offenses.
Many feel this court’s ruling uses a copout argument that goes against what voters intended. This view is supported by the fact that numerous politicians, like the former governor, have come out in opposition and share the same belief that voters did not intend to give sex offenders early parole.