Proposition 9, or "Marsy's Law," would amend the state constitution to change several victims' rights laws in California. If passed, victims and their families would be notified during all aspects of the justice process, including bail, sentencing and parole. The proposition would also require the authorities to take a victims' safety into concern when assigning bail or conducting a parole review. Prop. 6 would also alter the parole system in California. It would require that criminal sentences not be affected by early release polcies designed to reduce overcrowing in prisons. Victims and their family member would have a greater chance of testifying at parole hearings. The proposal, along with ballot partners Proposition 5 (Nonviolent Offenders) and Proposition 6 (Criminal Penalties), indicate a high level of concern over crime, prison costs, and criminal justice in California.
California voters established official victims' rights in the state with the passage of Proposition 8 in 1982. This iniatiative amended the Constitution to provide a "victims Bill of Rights" which included the right to be notified in advance of a parole hearing as well as attend and testify at the hearing. The proposition mandated that crime victims have the right to obtain financial and other restitution from the criminal for any losses suffered as a result of the crime. Proposition 8 also established a right for all students to attend school safely.
Proposition 9 would expand victims' rights laws to allow victims and their families more input during the justice process. In particular, they would receive notification not only when the offender is being sentenced and paroled, but also when the offender is released from custody after their arrest, and when entering a plea. Law enforcement would be required to equip victims with a information card containing resources and rights. Victims and their families would have the right to stop the release of some kinds confidential information to the defendants. Property being used during investigations and trials would have to be returned to the victims and their families. Proposition 9 would require that a victim's safety be taken into account when judge is setting bail for offenders.
Early Release and Parole
Currently in California, offenders are released on parole for a set time period based on the offense they were convicted for. The majority of offenders serve a maximum 3 year parole term with the possibility for an extended term if parole board deems it necessary. Many offenders can also be discharged early from parole if they avoid committing additional crimes. Parolees who violate terms of their parole may be returned to prison by the Board of Parole Hearings (BPH). If parolees commit new crimes after their release from prison, they can also be found guilty of violating parole.
Proposition 9 would require that crimminal sentences be carried out in full and not be significantly shortened due to prison overcrowding. Enough funding to guarantee an inmate serving their full sentence would be required. In cases of a life sentence, Proposition 9 would require that the inmate, once denied, would have to wait 15 years before having another parole hearing. Cri me victims' would be notified of parole hearings earlier than is now the case. They would also be able to bring family members to testify at parole hearings.
Proposition 9 would change how parole boards can revoke a prisoner's parole status. Longer deadlines would be instituted for hearing of revocation charges and probable cause hearings. Legal counsel would be made available if the board deemed the parolee incapable of defending themselves or if their case is considered complicated.
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Public Opinon Resources
Survey USA poll
September 25, 2008
Pros & Cons (League of Women Voters)
Reports and Studies
California’s Proposition 7: An Analysis
By Stephen Weisman, California Center for Environmental Law and Policy, October 2008
Audio and Video
Center for Governmental Studies