The California District Attorneys Association sent a letter to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger Wednesday saying that reducing criminal sentences to help balance the state's budget will lead to rising crime rates.
The lengthy and strongly worded letter, signed by Napa County District Attorney Gary Lieberstein, who heads the prosecutors group, and other prosecutors across the state, says they "strongly oppose" a bill that the state Legislature will vote on today because "thousands of felons will go virtually unpunished and our local crime rates will inevitably rise."
The letter also says that linking passage of the state's budget package to the creation of a sentencing commission, which will implement new sentencing guidelines, "without full and complete public review and hearing is simply unacceptable."
Alameda County District Attorney Tom Orloff, who is active in the statewide group, alleged that Schwarzenegger and state legislative leaders are "rushing to judgment" and said "we will see a lot of criminals who are now in state prison returning to local communities sooner than normal."
Orloff said he understands that the state plans to release 27,000 prisoners early. State officials are "scrambling" to cut $1.2 billion in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's budget and "are not listening to anybody," he said.
Aaron McLear, a spokesman for Schwarzenegger, said the District Attorneys Association is misinformed and under the governor's proposal "there will be no early release of prisoners."
Instead, McLear said 27,000 prisoners will be given "alternative custody" arrangements.
He said criminal aliens will be deported and low-risk prisoners will be given home detention or house arrest.
McLear also noted that a federal court panel recently ordered the state to reduce the population of its overcrowded prisons by up to 40,000 within two years because of what the panel called "woefully and constitutionally inadequate" health care.
McLear said the court-ordered release of 40,000 prisoners, which the state is appealing, and the plan to place 27,000 prisoners in "alternative custody" arrangements are "completely separate issues."