Kent Williams, 57, speaks at news conference about his release.
Kent Williams, 57, speaks at news conference about his release. Image via YouTube.com

The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office announced Friday it was expanding efforts to review and recommend resentencing for defendants who may warrant early release and reintegration back into the community.

A recently enacted state law has authorized local prosecutors to re-examine sentences that may have been harsher than the punishment warranted.

Assembly Bill 2942, which went into effect in 2019, allows prosecutors to recommend resentencing and petition judges to hear those cases.

Two years ago, San Diego prosecutors petitioned the first case in the state under the new law, allowing 57-year-old Kent Williams to be resentenced and released following 16 years he spent in prison on a 50-year-to-life sentence for burglary and auto theft. Three other San Diego defendants have since been resentenced and released, while another man is expected to receive a new sentence on Monday.

The DA’s Office has also filed petitions asking a judge to resentence two other inmates.

Around 150 inmates’ sentences are currently under review, according to the DA’s Office.

“Prosecutors have a duty to seek the truth and justice before, during, and after someone is convicted and that includes making sure that prison sentences are proportionate with the harm that the crime produced,” District Attorney Summer Stephan said. “This new law allows prosecutors to repair past inequities by looking back and correcting any unjust sentences and we are committed to doing while considering crime victims and public safety.”

“It’s also important we continue to approach criminal justice reform initiatives like this lawfully and responsibly, making sure when someone is released, they’re set up to succeed when they come back to our communities,” Stephan said.

The DA’s Office has also partnered with organizations to help those released make a successful transition into the community, as well as with nonprofit organization For The People to expand its resentencing efforts.

The nonprofit partners with prosecutors, lawmakers, inmates and others to remedy unduly harsh sentences, and is working with the DA’s Conviction and Sentence Review Unit toward that effort.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with DA Stephan, especially in light of the pandemic and the increased urgency to safely release people from prison and reunite them with their families,” said Hillary Blout, For The People’s executive director.

Additionally, some prosecutors within the DA’s Office have brought cases forward for resentencing, while the DA’s Office also receives resentencing recommendations from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, applications from the inmates themselves, or referrals from the community.

Applications for sentencing review can be found at www.sdcda.org/prosecuting/resentencing-requests.

— City News Service contributed to this article

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