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Democrats Lieu, Huber blast Schwarzenegger administration over inmate release changes

January 25, 2010 |  8:01 pm

California began evaluating prisoners today as part of a process that could eventually reduce the state’s prison population by as many as 6,500 inmates.

While state prisons chief Matthew Cate called today a “landmark” day for prison reform, two Assembly Democrats -- both of whom are facing tough election battles later this year -- lashed out at the Schwarzenegger administration and introduced a new bill as a voice for local law enforcement groups in the process.

The Democrats -- Ted Lieu (D-Torrance), who is running for state attorney general, and Alyson Huber (D-El Dorado Hills), who is facing a tough reelection campaign this fall -- have teamed up on a bill that would mandate that local officials have a voice in which inmates are released.

“I’m all for reform, but I’m against stupid reform,” Lieu said in an interview Monday. “Today is a sad day for public safety and victims of crime. Starting today, pretty much every prisoner who is not in for life -- the overwhelming majority of them -- will get their sentences cut in half.”

Corrections chief Cate challenged Lieu's assessment in a news conference Monday and sketched their proposal in a news release last week.

Last year, Schwarzenegger signed SB 3x18, which made changes to the state’s prison and parole system. The bill sought to speed up the release of certain nonviolent offenders and made cuts to the state’s parole and rehabilitation programs. The move was part of a plan to bring the state into compliance with federal mandates to reduce the state’s prison population. Lieu said the net effect of the changes will be “a real increase in crime on our streets. I wish the administration would stop spinning this and be honest about what this is: a straight-up cut to public safety. This is not reform. Reform is supposed to make things better. This makes things worse."