LETTER from SCOTT BUDNICK
In the midst of dramatic and unsettling changes happening at the national level, I write to you at the beginning of this new year filled with hope. For our incarcerated brothers and sisters, who are receiving this newsletter by mail, a new year can feel like just another day on the calendar, no different from the countless days that have passed. I want to encourage everyone -- both inside and out -- to think differently and to embrace hope.
Because of your commitment to a fairer justice system, California voters passed Proposition 57 in 2016. Now, beginning in 2017, many of our incarcerated family members will have a meaningful opportunity to turn their lives around and earn their way home sooner.
Since the passage of Prop 57 many of our incarcerated members, their families, loved ones and allies, have reached out to ARC wondering how Prop 57 will impact the lives of those incarcerated in California. Governor Brown recently released his annual budget, outlining some of the ways that he expects Prop 57 will dramatically change our justice system. The Governor expects that Prop 57 will:
- Increase and standardize good-time credit earnings, which are earned when an incarcerated individual avoids violating prison rules.
- Allow incarcerated individuals, with the exception of life-term inmates sentenced to life without parole and condemned individuals, to earn milestone credits. These credits are earned when an individual completes specific education or training programs with attendance and performance requirements.
- Increase the amount of time an individual can earn for milestone completion credits from six weeks per year to twelve weeks per year.
- Create new, enhanced milestone credits for one‑time significant earned academic and vocational achievements, such as Associate of Arts or Bachelor’s degrees, high school diplomas, and career technical education certifications. Enhanced milestone credits will be applied retrospectively for credits earned during the individual’s current term.
- Establish new achievement credits for people that have sustained participation in other rehabilitative programs and activities. Individuals will be able to earn up to four weeks of achievement credits in a 12‑month period. Credits earned by life‑termers will be credited towards their Minimum Eligible Parole Date.
To be clear, these are not the final regulations. We are eagerly awaiting an official draft of regulations from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). As soon as we receive this draft, we will work closely with members and coalition partners to provide feedback and public comment to ensure that CDCR develops fair and authentic incentives for self-improvement. We will also work to ensure that rehabilitative and educational programs are available throughout CDCR, and not just at a few select institutions, to give every incarcerated individual a fair chance to change his or her life.
By this point, you should also know that ARC is always trying to find new ways to bring hope to as many of our incarcerated family members as possible. This year, we're working with other community groups to provide support for two measures that will finally end Juvenile Life Without Parole in California. Our hope is that people who were sentenced to Life Without Parole as juveniles will have the opportunity to have a parole hearing and, ultimately, come home.
In the meantime, we must encourage our incarcerated brothers and sisters to remain hopeful, to embrace change, and to move intentionally and tirelessly towards self-improvement. Over 2017, we will continue to organize regular outreach trips to bring hope to prisons across California. We will also begin sending newsletters inside -- like this one -- to remind our brothers and sisters that there is a community waiting for them to come home and prepared to support them.
We look forward to continuing to build together in 2017.
IN THIS ISSUE:
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2016 IN REVIEW
At ARC, 2016 has been an inspiring year marked by significant growth, including an expansion of our programs and services and the opening of a second ARC office in Sacramento. As we prepare to build on our work in 2017, we want to update you on the many steps we've taken over the past year to change lives and build healthier communities across California. Read more.