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San Francisco D.A.'s Initiative Would Turn Felonies into Misdemeanors: A initiative proposal made by San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon would reduce nonviolent felonies including drug possession and theft, from felonies to misdemeanors.  Marisa Lagos of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Gascon believes that making these crimes misdemeanors, will save the state money allowing more to be spent on crime prevention and treatment programs for mental health and substance abuse.  If adopted the initiative would shift more inmates out of state prison and into local county jails, which are already overcrowded and becoming a more dangerous environment due to Governor Brown's Realignment law.  

Judge Considers CA Inmate Isolation Practices:  In light of recent controversies surrounding the solitary confinement issue, a federal judge is pondering whether placing mentally ill inmates in solitary is a violation of their civil rights.  Don Thompson of the Associated Press reports that U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton, one of the tribunal that has already ordered massive inmate releases, has already ruled that mentally ill inmates on death row lack adequate care and the treatment.  Judge Karlton is also reviewing the use of force by prison guards, which encompasses the issue of prolonged segregation.  Currently, about 9 percent of California's prison population are held in isolation units. 

More Violence Reported in Arkansas Jail:  A spokeswoman for the Washington County Detention Center in Arkansas says that the jail sees about two to three fights per week, which officials believe is the result of the growing inmate population. Shain Bergan and Katelynn Zoellner of 5News reports that the 710-bed facility houses 581 detainees, 238 of whom have been convicted and are awaiting transfer to a state prison.  Though not at full capacity, the numbers of inmates are up and continuing to rise, and the need to separate certain inmates from one another presents a challenge.  In the past six months, 63 attacks have occurred on officers and other detainees. 

California Changes Parole Policy for Lifers:  A legal settlement approved this week by a state appeals judge requires  California's Board of Parole Hearings to set the minimum time that should be served before an inmate is released.  The state agreed to the deal as a way to release murderers and others serving life sentences sooner.  Don Thompson of the Associated Press reports that the shift in policy will have the parole board setting the minimum term at the inmate's first parole hearing, rather than setting the minimum terms after determining if an inmate is eligible for parole.  The new policy will lead to earlier parole dates for inmates, which would inevitably reduce prison overcrowding.  However, corrections experts are skeptical that the change will actually shorten the prison terms of thousands of inmates, and legal director Kent Schiedegger of the CJLF concurs that it is "too soon" to say what, if any, effect the policy may have.


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