California Counts

A collaboration between Capital Public Radio, KQED, KPCC and KPBS to cover the 2016 elections in California.

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Brown Early Parole Measure Passes, Newsom Gun Control Initiative Leading

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Marisa Lagos | KQED

Gov. Jerry Brown’s Proposition 57 has passed after enjoying a strong lead throughout the evening.

Proposition 57 will make several changes to California’s criminal justice system, after 10 years of federal court oversight of its prisons prompted by overcrowding. Its least controversial part would change how some juvenile defendants are charged by allowing judges, instead of prosecutors, to decide if they should be charged as adults.

But two other provisions of Proposition 57 impacting adult inmates attracted far more attention and opposition. The ballot measure would let inmates in prison for crimes considered nonviolent under state law come up for parole earlier than they can now — after serving the base term of their sentence, and before serving sentencing “enhancements” tacked on for things like having a gun, a prior record or gang involvement.

It would also allow the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to create a new “good-time” credit system so that more inmates could potentially knock time off their sentences for participating in programs like drug rehabilitation and education.

Brown says the ballot measure would give inmates incentives to change while they are in prison, reversing what he sees as the effects of a determinate sentencing structure he signed into law 40 years ago when he was first governor. That change in law — which prescribed set prison terms for most inmates — was followed by dozens of “tough on crime” enhancements and laws created by voters and lawmakers. Brown argues that those laws led to prison overcrowding and that Proposition 57 would help ease that crowding while also giving inmates a reason to improve themselves.

Prosecutors argued that the measure would let dangerous people out of prison and undermine victims’ rights.

Meanwhile, Proposition 63 by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is leading in early returns.

The measure would toughen California’s already-strict gun laws.

Also opposed by some law enforcement groups, Proposition 63 would require that ammunition be regulated similarly to guns in California, with licenses for sellers and buyers. It would also require people to report when guns are lost or stolen and set up a process so that newly convicted felons would have to get rid of their guns before they are sentenced.

Newsom argued that the ballot measure would crack down on gun traffickers and other dangerous people who currently are barred from buying guns but can legally purchase bullets. Gun advocates charge Newsom’s measure would infringe on their Second Amendment rights and do nothing to stop dangerous people.