• BREAKING NEWS ABC shows live and on-demand -- Download the WATCH ABC app!

Suit challenges early-prison-release program

February 17, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
California's new parole plan is coming under more fire. Now a new lawsuit is challenging the plan's constitutionality. A victims' rights group says its rights are being violated when the state releases inmates early.California voters approved Marsy's Law back in 2008, a crime victims bill of rights, protecting the public from dangerous felons.

A lawsuit filed by Crime Victims United challenges the state's new parole plan, claiming early releases violate their rights because there is little rehabilitation going on behind bars.

"We believe in good time credit if it's earned and earned means participating in true rehabilitation, not just sitting there and getting it, as they call it, for breathing," said Nina Salarno, executive director, Crime Victims United of California.

Hundreds of inmates considered low-risk and non-violent have been released since the new law took effect three weeks ago.

State leaders approved the move last year to help cut the state corrections department's budget during this financial crisis.

The new system gives inmates one day off their sentence for every day they exhibit good behavior and participate in education or rehabilitation programs. The old way gave them one day for every three served.

The new calculation came under fire when a Sacramento parolee, Kevin Peterson, was arrested earlier this month for attempted rape, just hours after his early release.

Still, state leaders defend the new parole plan saying there are never any guarantees

"You can't avoid that. What you can do is make sure that people have jobs, that people don't have to go and break in homes and have to steal, that people have a good life," said Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

But Bill Bean Sr. warns it's not worth cutting sentences short to save a few bucks. As he looks at the memorial honoring his son, a police officer killed by a parolee 11 years ago, the father is very concerned.

"If you were to look into the one that murdered my son, he would be at the head of the line for early release," said Bean. "He was considered a non-violent drug offender."

The lawsuit seeks to stop the early releases and overturn parts of the new parole plan.