CRIME STORY has received permission to re-print Michael Romano‘s newsletters from Stanford Law School’s Three Strikes Project whose mission is to reverse the most unjust criminal sentences. Romano and his colleague Susan Champion were interviewed by Amanda Knox for CRIME STORY and you can find the podcast and the transcript of that interview here. You can find a story about Romano’s participation in a U.S. Congressional field hearing on criminal justice reform here.

In our continuing effort to identify people who are unfairly incarcerated and work to win their freedom, we are very excited to announce that partnerships we began with the District Attorneys and Public Defenders in Santa Clara and San Francisco counties are reaping their first dividends.

The first 27 people identified by these programs have now formally been resentenced and released. Collectively, these sentence reductions well over 300 years of total prison time “saved” for the individuals involved.

Shortly after new San Francisco DA Chesa Boudin took office, we began working with him and his team to help identify people serving sentences under the Three Strikes law imposed under prior administrations. We worked with the DA’s office to collect, analyze, and present data and develop a review and triaging process for identifying candidates for sentence reductions. We also support reentry planning, including securing emergency post-release quarantine housing and longer-term housing and programming for individuals resentenced and released through this process. The work continues to be a great success and would not be possible without the support and collaboration with the SF District Attorney and Public Defender offices.

Our work in Santa Clara county began last summer when District Attorney Jeff Rosen and his team reached out to us to help develop a systematic plan to identify people in state prison who are at high risk for COVID but low risk for release. Using a new statute championed by DA Rosen himself, his office formed a collaboration with our Project, the Public Defender, and community reentry services to select the best candidates for early release and ensure their safe return to the community, relying on detailed risk and health data from the Dept. of Corrections. 

A tremendous amount of credit also goes to the Offices of the Public Defender in both counties, which actually represent the people who are being resentenced, and help ensure their safe return to the community. We’re also grateful to the Superior Courts who have largely embraced this collaborative approach to revisiting and correcting old sentences that are no longer in the interest of justice.

Despite cooperation from all sides of the justice system—from DAs to defense lawyers, courts, the Dept. of Corrections, and reentry providers—it has been a great deal of work to get these collaborations off the ground and running smoothly. It is a long and difficult process to reverse the machinery of incarceration, but we are extremely proud to stand alongside these partners to help free people that are unfairly incarcerated and demonstrate that we can reduce incarceration and improve community health and public safety at the same time.

From our office, I am especially proud and grateful for our Office Manager Andrea Deleon, who identified and presented data for over a dozen people sentenced to life who are now free; Staff Attorney Milena Blake, who has freed more clients under California’s new “second look” re-sentencing law than anyone in the state (and also runs our in-house data analysis); Staff Fellow Lara Hoffman, who has guided attorneys across the state through the new legal processes; and—of course—our Deputy Director Susan Champion who has coordinated the whole process.

Over the past months, we’ve learned a lot about coordinating between state and county agencies and analyzing data to help expedite sentence reviews. We look forward to continuing to work with our partners in San Francisco and Santa Clara—as well as other counties that begin to reevaluate old sentences that may no longer be fair, necessary, or justified.

Stay tuned to this space for more information shortly and, as always, thank you for your continued support and encouragement!


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