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.

Darrell Ellis is home for the new year!

Over 17 years ago, while in the grips of a methamphetamine addiction, Darrell Ellis committed a series of nonviolent robberies in which no one was hurt. Prosecutors charged him under the Three Strikes law and threatened a sentence of 200-years-to-life.

Darrell decided to take a plea bargain and agreed to a sentence of 30-years-to-life. At his sentencing, he expressed deep remorse for the harm he caused and promised the judge that would address his addiction and work every day to improve himself so he would never harm anyone again. 

Darrell made good on that promise. During almost two decades behind bars, he worked relentlessly to improve himself and serve those around him. He earned three college degrees, numerous technical certifications, and, most significantly, the respect of prison officials who recommended him for early release in recognition of his “exceptional conduct” and rehabilitation. 

Darrell’s case returned to court late last month, based on the recommendation of prison officials. With a new District Attorney in Los Angeles, prosecutors agreed with the prison authorities that Darrell’s life sentence was “no longer in the interest of justice.” The Superior Court eventually vacated Darrell’s life term, re-sentenced him to time served, and ordered him released forthwith!

Darrell was met outside the gates of Folsom State Prison by his Aunt Melanie, who brought him to his long-term residential reentry program in Los Angeles. After completing his reentry program, Darrell is looking forward to continuing his studies through Project Rebound at Cal State Pomona.

We’re thrilled for Darrell, proud of our team, and looking forward to his continued success in the new year!

In the News:

With the New Year Comes New Reforms and Ideas

Last week the Los Angeles Times profiled some of our policy reform work and our partners at the Committee on the Revision of the Penal Code for “quietly spearheading a massive effort to overhaul the thicket of criminal laws that make up the state penal code.” The article notes including SIX new laws recommended by the Committee and enacted by the legislature that will help reduce unnecessary incarceration and racial bias and address mental issues, which took effect on January 1st. 

The article also notes new reform proposals for 2022 recently published in the Committee’s Annual Report and Recommendations to the legislature and Governor Newsom. The report includes new data and research on criminal law trends in California and makes new policy recommendations, including enhancing reentry services, expanding mental health treatment and diversion, providing more opportunities for parole review, and finally ending California’s Three Strikes law. 

None of this would be possible without our amazing students, the staff at the Three Strikes Project and Penal Code Committee, our ally organizations and expert stakeholders, our friends in the legislature and Gov. Newsom, and of course the generous support from our funders.

Thank you all, and happy new year!

– Mike
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