Contra Costa joins state program aiming to rectify excessive prison sentences

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Contra Costa District Attorney Diana Becton

A state pilot program will help the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office process resentencing applications from inmates in state prisons in a more timely manner.

On Friday, the DA’s office was notified that it was selected to participate in the California County Resentencing Pilot Program, funded under the state budget signed recently by Gov. Gavin Newsom. The program builds upon Assembly Bill 2942, which “allows for a district attorney to review old sentences and determine if the sentence still serves the interest of justice and the community,” the DA’s Office said.

The nonprofit For the People oversees the pilot program, which starts Sept. 1 and consists of nine participating counties.

“The resources available to the participating counties will enable each office to better process requests for resentencing applications and evaluate a collaborative approach to conducting resentencing requests,” the Contra Costa DA’s Office said in a statement. “In addition, as part of this pilot program, the DA’s Office will create a written policy to recommend individuals for resentencing, have training for staff to understand the obligations under state law for resentencing, and track data for each request.”

A recent beneficiary of AB 2942 is Christopher Hales, who was originally sentenced to 89 years to life in state prison following his third robbery arrest in 1995, when he was 21 years old. The Contra Costa County DA’s Office supported his resentencing. Earlier this month, he was released after serving 25 years in prison. Hales is the second person in Contra Costa County to be resentenced under AB 2942.

The DA’s Office will get $1.05 million to participate in the pilot. The Public Defender’s Office will receive $750,000 for the program and will advise the DA’s Office on potential candidates for resentencing. A local community-based organization will receive $250,000 to help individuals re-enter the community with support services, the DA’s Office said.

“I was proud to support AB 2942 and this funding further strengthens my office’s ability to process these requests in a timely manner. Excessive sentences undermine our ability to hold the most violent accountable for serious crimes in our community,” said Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton. “The strain on the state prison and criminal justice system is immense from these failed policies of our past.”