SACRAMENTO, Calif.—On Friday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom commuted the sentences of 21 state prison inmates. This included over a dozen of those who were convicted of murder. Some of the victims included a pregnant woman and children.
He also pardoned five people who had already served their time. The governor decided to move forward with the clemency requests as a direct result of the looming pandemic.
According to Vicky Waters, a spokeswoman, the clemency requests were already being considered before the outbreak, “and, as resources permitted, the governor decided to move forward with them.”
In an effort to help prevent the spread of coronavirus, attorneys representing inmates have been stepping up to ask federal judges to free thousands of prisoners. Newsom did say, however, that mass releases could cause a further burden on homelessness programs and the community healthcare system.
Waters said that the governor “also considered the public health impact of each grant, as well as each inmate’s individual health status and the suitability of their post-release plans, including housing.”
Along with the recent release of inmates, Newman also stopped transfers into the system for 30 days.
When affected with the coronavirus, most people have mild to moderate symptoms. However, it can cause more serious issues, including pneumonia and death. This is especially true for older adults and people who have compromised immune systems.
Many of the inmates granted clemency by Newsom were under the age of 26 when their crimes occurred. They have since participated in rehabilitation programs, said Waters. Most of the commutations will allow the inmates to seek parole, but the Board of Parole Hearings will still make the release decisions.
Some of the inmates commuted include the following:
Rodney McNeal, 50, of San Bernardino County: McNeal has served 22 years for fatally stabbed his pregnant wife. He denies that he did so.
Suzanne Johnson, 75, of San Diego County: Johnson has served 22 years for assault on a child causing death.
Joann Parks, 64, of Los Angeles County: Parks has served 27 years for setting a fire that killed her three children. She denies the charge.
Kristopher Blehm, 35, of Santa Barbara County: Blehm has served nearly 12 years for helping murder the romantic rival of his crime partner.
Rosemary Dyer, 67, of Shasta County: Dyer has served 33 years after fatally shooting her husband.
We don’t know what the future holds for the inmates who have been released. This is especially true if they need to seek employment. Work from home options are preferred during the coronavirus outbreak, but might not be as readily available.