Will felons convicted of drive-by shootings, giving guns to gangs or firing a weapon on a school yard "get out of jail free" if California’s Proposition 57 passes?
That’s the provocative claim Orange County Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez made this week during a U.S. Senate campaign debate in Los Angeles.
Sanchez is competing against fellow Democrat and front runner Attorney General Kamala Harris to succeed retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer.
"If you give guns to gangs, you can get out of jail free, if (Prop 57) passes. If you do a driveby shooting, you can get out of jail free, if this proposition passes. If you discharge guns on a school yard, you can get out of jail free," Sanchez claimed.
Sanchez makes her claims about Prop 57 at the 28:30 mark in the video above.
Sanchez opposes Prop 57, a measure on the November ballot that aims to reduce the state’s prison crowding by making some offenders eligible for early release.
Harris has declined to take a position on Prop 57, or any ballot measure, because as attorney general she is charged with writing an independent summary and title for each measure. She has generally supported what she calls ‘smart on crime’ efforts to reduce incarceration.
Looking at Sanchez’s claim, we wondered: Would offenders convicted of those gun crimes really benefit from Prop 57?
We set out on a fact-check.
This measure is officially called the Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016. It would make some prisoners convicted of what state law deems ‘nonviolent crimes’ eligible for early parole. It does not apply to inmates convicted of the state’s 23 ‘violent’ offenses listed in Penal Code Section 667.5 (c) including murder, robbery and kidnapping.
This is where Sanchez’s claim appears on target: None of the gun crimes she listed are among the 23 violent crimes, meaning offenders who committed them would be eligible for early release if Prop 57 passes, a Sanchez campaign spokesman said.
Experts who have examined the measure agree offenders convicted of most crimes not among the 23 would be eligible, with certain exceptions. All sex offenders, for example, would be excluded from consideration under rules state prison officials say will be enacted if Prop 57 passes. Some sex offenses are now considered nonviolent.
No getting ‘out of jail free’
Sanchez cited three gun crimes that could apply to Prop 57. But the next portion of her statement, saying a felon convicted of those crimes gets "out of jail free," is flat wrong and misleading. The measure does not apply to jail inmates and does not directly set anyone free. It would make some eligible for a parole board hearing, which in turn could lead to an early release, or not.
"To suggest any presumption that they will be paroled is, I think, a far step," state Sen. Mark Leno, a supporter of the measure, was quoted in the Voice of San Diego in July. "I don’t want to overlook the fact that this is just about eligibility and there will be a consideration by the [parole board] of all the facts."
The Voice of San Diego article pointed out that "the state parole board doesn’t grant release lightly. According to [the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation], out of 5,300 inmates up for parole in 2015, only 902, or 17 percent, were released."
Sanchez’s campaign spokesman said her ‘get out of jail free’ comment "is a figure of speech because that is how it will feel to the victims. She has said that early release is wrong and disrespectful to the victims."
Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez claimed in a U.S. Senate campaign debtate that: "If you give guns to gangs, you can get out of jail free, if (California’s Prop 57) passes. If you do a driveby shooting, you can get out of jail free, if this proposition passes. If you discharge guns on a school yard, you can get out of jail free."
Experts agree prisoners who committed crimes deemed ‘nonviolent’ under state law, including the three gun crimes Sanchez listed, could be eligible for early parole if Prop 57 passes.
Becoming eligible for a parole board hearing is far from getting "out of jail free." Particularly when less than 20 percent of hearings lead to early release.
Sanchez’s figure of speech -- which she employed three times -- greatly alters what otherwise might have been an accurate or mostly accurate statement. The "get out of jail free" comment is deceptive and distorts what Prop 57 proposes.
We rate Sanchez’s statement False.
FALSE – The statement is not accurate.
Click here for more on the six PolitiFact ratings and how we select facts to check.