Legislature Approves Stone Legislation to Expand Educational Opportunities to People in Prison

For immediate release:

SACRAMENTO – The California Legislature has approved a bill by Assemblymember Mark Stone (D-Monterey Bay) to expand education opportunities to prisoners who are awaiting trial in jails. The measure builds upon Stone’s previous work to address jail overcrowding and reduce recidivism.

“We need to address prison overcrowding and recidivism with every tool at our disposal.  This proposed law will allow more prisoners to participate in programs that teach critical community re-entry skills and will give county sheriffs an additional tool to provide rehabilitative services in jails,” said Stone.  “I’m pleased that the Legislature has approved this simple but helpful measure, and I hope the Governor will sign it into law.”

Under current law, state prisons and county jails offer rehabilitative programs to help eligible prisoners transition back into the community.  Depending on the prison or jail, available programs can include substance abuse treatment, anger management, academic and vocational education, and parenting classes.  By participating in these programs, prisoners can develop skills and certificates that can help them reintegrate into their communities after they are released.  As an additional incentive for prisoners to participate and successfully complete these programs, the corrections system offers credits by which people in prison can earn time off the end of their prison sentences.  Eligible prisoners can earn up to six weeks per year off their sentences. 

Current law authorizes county jails to give program credits to prisoners serving a prison sentence in jail.  This bill would expand the authorization of jails to allow all prisoners to participate in these programs, including those prisoners who have not yet been sentenced.  Prisoners who are not ultimately convicted would be able to take classes while awaiting trial, and prisoners who are convicted learn useful re-entry skills while earning time off the end of their sentences.

AB 1597 now goes to the Governor’s desk.  If signed, the measure will go into effect January 1, 2017.