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Prop 36 releasing some 'three-strikers'

Proposition 36 changed the Three Strikes Law to allow re-sentencing for some prisoners.
(Joe Ybarra Reporting)

A change to the Three Strikes Law has Tulare County in the spotlight.

Proposition 36 changed the Three Strikes Law to allow re-sentencing for some prisoners.

Michael Sheltzer is Tulare County's public defender and Prop 36 is keeping him very busy, helping inmates get out of prison.

The inmates are eligible to be re-sentenced under Prop 36 that says a 3rd strike needs to be a serious or violent felony. "I represented a guy who stole a couple of things from Gottschalks, he spent almost 18 years in prison," said Sheltzer.

That man was serving time under the original Three Strikes Law, but voters approved Prop 36 and changed the way it works, giving that man a chance to live outside prison walls. "He finally got out because of the new law and this guys simply was not dangerous," said Sheltzer.

Tulare County took on 42 cases because of Prop 36. 28 of them, or 67%, were deemed eligible to be re-sentenced, the second highest percentage in California, but just a fraction of the statewide population.

District Attorney Tim Ward says his office did not support Prop 36, but it is the law. "Of the inmates that are eligible, we are doing an efficient job of pushing those individuals through the court system; that is the law."

Also under the new law, a a third conviction has to be for a serious or violent felony to warrant a 25 to life sentence, which is something Sheltzer's says will save the state money and help relieve the strain on prison population.

The county still has a handful of inmates waiting to find out if they're eligible to be re-sentenced, cases the DA's office and the public defender's office don't agree on.

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