SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spent the day taking public comment on a temporary policy that allows incarcerated people to earn more time off of their sentence.

But technology problems during the hours-long hearing overshadowed comments from both sides of the issue. Some called the hearing ineffective. 

The teleconference hearing was meant to allow the public to weigh in on a temporary expansion of the CDCR’s Good Conduct Credit program, allowing those incarcerated to earn even more time off of their sentences.

The department is considering making it permanent. Of the comments that could be heard clearly, there was an even mix of supporters and opponents.

Supporters included members of anti-recidivism groups, some formerly incarcerated people and family members of prisoners.

“Incentives for credits provide hope for loved ones and our families,” said Flower Lopez, a supporter of the program.

Opponents included local district attorneys and crime victims. 

But calls for and against the program were drowned out by unmuted background noise the CDCR could not control, including coughs, chatter and the sound of commercials.

“It was frustrating. Just, there was no rhyme or reason or order for how you talked,” Assemblyman Jim Cooper, D-Sacrament, said

Cooper was the only state lawmaker to dial into the hearing.

He urged the CDCR to not move forward with making the policy permanent, pointing to a suspect in the Sacramento shooting that was out of prison because they were considered non-violent and earned good conduct credits. 

He wants to change the definition of non-violent.

“I’m going to read you what is non-violent crime in California. It’s a felony but non-violent: assault with a deadly weapon, inflict corporal injury on a child, domestic violence, rape of an unconscious person, human trafficking of a child, hate crimes. These are crimes you go to prison for and you get released early, which is insane,” Cooper said.

Attorney General Rob Bonta and Governor Gavin Newsom have not commented on the program. Assemblyman James Gallagher, R-Yuba City, who also opposes the measure, said Newsom should be taking action.

“CDCR even referenced Gavin Newsom’s executive order about reducing prison population in response to COVID-19 when they issued emergency regulations. They have been responsive to the governor. He has been a champion of these policies and he needs to take responsibility,” Gallagher said.

The CDCR did not take any action in the hearing. It is expected to make a decision on the policy in the near future.

The department issued a statement following the hearing.

CDCR values public comments on our proposed regulations, including those given at scheduled public meetings … The public meeting today was scheduled to be virtual … The technology selected was done so to accommodate the large number of public comments and interested in the Good Conduct Credits regulations … We apologize for the inconvenience, but appreciate the public’s patience with this process, and we can assure that people were heard, all comments were recorded, and will be included in the next steps in the rule making process.

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation