Santa Barbara prosecutors say it’s still “too early” to say what impact Proposition 36 — the statewide initiative passed last November granting early release to eligible repeat offenders sentenced to life under the state’s Three-Strikes law — has had despite a new study showing only 2 percent of those released have re-offended. That study, prepared by the NAACP and the Stanford University Law School Three Strikes Project, concluded that only two percent of the third-strikers released under the terms of Prop. 36 had re-offended after 4.4 months. That compares to a 16 percent re-offense rate for non-third-strikers released for the same period of time.
Senior prosecuting attorney Hilary Dozer said the program has been in effect such a short time that no meaningful results can be obtained. Statewide, 1,000 inmates — only those with nonviolent and nonserious third strikes are eligible — have been released under Prop. 36 with another 2,000 early-release applications still pending. Dozer said figures for Santa Barbara County could not be assembled by press deadline, but he said in southern Santa Barbara County none of the third-strikers have re-offended. Dozer cautioned that most inmates released thus far have been among the least violent based on their prior criminal records and behavior in state prison. Those pending, he said, have more checkered records.
Statewide, only 2 percent of inmates seeking early release have been denied. In Santa Barbara, Dozer said South County prosecutors unsuccessfully opposed the release of five. He noted that county prosecutors have sought to inject the mental records of the petitioning inmates into judicial deliberations but with mixed results. Typically, mental records are deemed privileged and confidential. Judge Brian Hill has admitted such records in cases assigned to him, while Judge Jean Dandona has refused to allow them. The authors of the study — who led the charge to pass Prop. 36 — concluded there was a dangerous dearth of reentry services to help released third-strikers adjust to life on the outside. Of the 2 percent who have re-offended, the study found that the majority involved minor misdemeanors.