Prop. 57, Governor’s Push to Loosen Prison Parole Rules, Passes

A death row inmate is escorted back to his East Block cell after spending time in the yard at San Quentin State Prison on Aug. 16. (Credit: Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

A death row inmate is escorted back to his East Block cell after spending time in the yard at San Quentin State Prison on Aug. 16. (Credit: Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

California voters handed a decisive victory to Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday in his effort to reshape the state’s criminal justice system, approving a ballot measure to offer a new chance at prison release for thousands of prisoners.

Proposition 57, the governor’s plan to further shrink the state’s prison population, was supported by almost two-thirds of voters in Tuesday night returns. Its strongest support came from urban areas with a sizeable number of Democratic voters.

The ballot measure changes the state’s prison and legal systems in three significant ways. The least controversial element will reverse a law approved by voters in 2000 that sent more juvenile defendants to adult courtrooms. Those young defendants will now only be charged as adults with a judge’s approval.

The most controversial parts of Proposition 57 involve the prospect of parole for felons who have not been convicted of one of California’s designated “violent” crimes, and the creation of new good-behavior credits that all state prisoners would be eligible to earn.

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