California is on its way to shedding its reputation as having one of the largest state correctional systems in the nation. The state plans to give early release to 76,000 inmates, including those considered violent and repeat felons.

This week, the California Office of Administrative Law approved the new prison reform, which will see over 63,000 prisoners that were sentenced for violent crimes become eligible to earn good behavior credits. 

The credits would shorten their sentences by one-third compared to the one-fifth that was in place since 2017.

Among those receiving early release includes almost 20,000 inmates sentenced to life with the possibility of parole and more than 10,000 prisoners convicted of a second serious but nonviolent offense under the California “three strikes” law.

Those inmates will be eligible for release once they complete half of their sentences. The changes will also apply to around 2,900 nonviolent prisoners that were also convicted under the “three strikes” law.

Dana Simas, the California Office of Administrative Law spokesperson, revealed the goal is to offer prisoners a variety of avenues to cut down their sentences and scale back the number of inmates.

“The goal is to increase incentives for the incarcerated population to practice good behavior and follow the rules while serving their time, and participate in rehabilitative and educational programs, which will lead to safer prisons,” she said in a statement. 

“Additionally, these changes would help to reduce the prison population by allowing incarcerated persons to earn their way home sooner,” she said.

While people within the correction field see this as a positive move toward prison reform, some are against it.

Republican state Senator Jim Nielsen slammed Governor Gavin Newsom’s administration over endangering the state by releasing inmates early.

“As the former Chairman of the Board of Prison terms, I am intimately aware of these criminal justice regulations. This is ill-founded, ill-cited criminal justice policies. Violent felons are receiving good time credit for simply breathing, in lieu of demonstrated good behavior and rehabilitation,” he said

“This is another ill-conceived policy of the Newsom Administration in its attempts to release convicted violent criminals back into our communities. We, the people, will pay the price for his continued follies.”

Although prisoners will be given the opportunity to shorten their sentences, it could take months or years before these early releases begin to happen.

A guard tower at the US military's prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba A guard tower at the US military's prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba Photo: AFP / Thomas WATKINS