In 1997, this author was arrested for an alleged petty theft and subsequently given a 25-years-to-life “Three Strikes” prison term. On November 7, 2012, the day after California’s voters approved the Three Strikes Reform Act of 2012 (Prop 36), this author submitted a pro per petition for a recall of sentence and re-sentencing to the Los Angeles County Superior Court. Based on the length of time already served, this author should have been promptly released from custody with no probation or parole.
On January 23, 2013, Superior Court Judge William C. Ryan issued an Order to Show Cause to the Los Angeles County District Attorney (DA) to show cause, if any, why this author should not be resentenced and released. Subsequently, the DA’s Office found no reason to oppose resentencing, but asked for Post Release Community Supervision (PRCS) to be imposed as a condition for resentencing. At the hearing on this author’s petition on April 24, 2013, Judge Ryan stated that, although the law neither requires nor authorizes him to impose PRCS in a case like this, and he cannot impose it without the petitioner’s agreement, he would grant the resentencing only if the petitioner agrees to waive sufficient back time credits (approx. 5 years) to allow for one year of PRCS.
Out of California’s 58 counties, this author is not aware of any other courts imposing PRCS on Prop 36 beneficiaries. During a recent telephone conversation, Harvey Sherman, Deputy-in-Charge of the Public Integrity Assurance Section of the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office, notified this author that PRCS is not an option in other counties.
Contrary Judge Ryan’s requirement for this author (and several others) to be placed on PRCS, Erica E. Phillips reported his initial position in The Wall Street Journal, noting that “Prosecutors have argued that the released prisoners should be placed in a supervision program, but the judge and defense attorneys have disagreed. That ‘would have been a desirable provision’ in the law, judge Ryan said, but it isn’t there.” (WSJ, 3/30-31/2013, page A3.)
WHAT IS PRCS?
In short, PRCS is county probation. The Post Release Supervision Act of 2011, Assembly Bill 109 (AB 109), which is codified as Penal Code sections 3450 et seq., states in part: “Realigning the postrelease supervision of certain felons reentering the community after serving a prison term to local community corrections programs, which are strengthened through community-based punishment, evidence-based practices, and improved supervision strategies, will improve public safety outcomes among felon parolees and will facilitate their successful reintegration back into society.” (Penal Code section 3450(b)(5).)
Importantly, PRCS comes with a caveat. That is, “An advisement that if a person breaks the law or violates the conditions of release, he or she can be incarcerated in a county jail regardless of whether or not new charges are filed.” (Penal Code section 3452(b)(3).) Notably, without a warrant, court hearing or other due process of law, subdivision 3450(b)(8) of the Penal Code states that “Intermediate sanctions may be provided by local public safety entities directly or through public or private correctional service providers and include, but are not limited to, the following: (A) Short-term ‘flask’ incarceration in jail for a period of not more than 10 days; (B) Intensive community supervision; (C) Home detention with electronic monitoring; …”
POTENTIAL CONSEQUENSES OF REJECTING PRCS
A common belief held by many Third-Strike prisoners is that Judge Ryan’s PRCS requirement is coercive and subjects one to accept it under duress. For instance, in March 2013, a Third-Strike prisoner confined at the Folsom State Prison (Mr. Byas) was notified by his Deputy Alternate Public Defender to complete and return a document pertaining to PRCS. Mr. Byas promptly notified his attorney that his “18 years" of confinement is “enough supervision.” Shortly thereafter, Judge Ryan denied Mr. Byas’ petition for resentencing.
ACCENTUATING THE POSITIVE
On April 30, 2013, after this author agreed to accept one year PRCS with 6-months outpatient drug counseling, Judge Ryan granted his petition for resentencing. On May 7, 2013, after nearly 16-years of being “incapacitated,” this author was released from Old Folsom Prison.
Considering the potential consequences of living in a drug-infested and high-crime area, this author notified the Probation Department staff that he needs housing assistance, preferably in a good neighborhood. About one hour later, his housing request was approved, and he now resides in an affluent neighborhood, in a large house, with several amenities (cable
TV, gym, tool table, etc.) 100% free.
With the implementation of AB 109, millions of tax dollars are funding countless agencies and organizations that provide services and resources to individuals with PRCS. For example, also facilitated by the Probation Departments and funded by AB 109, individuals with PRCS have immediate and ongoing access to numerous free resources, including: medical care, clothing, food, personal care products, transportation, computer access, employment services, and several linked services (e.g., eye clinic, dental care, etc.).
Ironically, PRCS has turned out to be extremely beneficial for this author. While utilizing the aforementioned services and resources available via PRCS (AB 109), this author’s transition back into society has been virtually seamless.