Watch CBS News

California Won't Say Why Violent Criminals Are Walking Free From Potential Life Sentences

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — For weeks, CBS13 has been pressing the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation for transparency on the early inmate releases.

Now the office says because of privacy laws, they will not tell the public why a woman serving a life prison sentence for murder is free, or even where she is.

"It's really a slap in the face to my brother, to the judicial system," said Dena Love.

Love is once again having to relive the murder of her brother, Kevin "John" Ruska Jr., who was kidnapped and eventually died at the hands of Terebea Williams in 1998. Williams only served a quarter of her 84 years to life sentence for first-degree murder.

kevin ruska
Kevin "John" Ruska was killed by Williams and the family says they still don't know why.

"She should have spent the rest of her life behind bars," said Love.

Williams is now walking free after she was deemed at high medical risk for the virus. The Yolo County District Attorneys Office was told she suffers a heart condition.

She is just one of the thousands of early inmate releases, part of emergency measures to prevent the rapid spread of the virus and to protect those who live and work in the prison system.

"These prisoners are being released due to the scare of the COVID pandemic running rampant through their own jail, prison system," said Love.

READ ALSO: District Attorneys Say Victims Are Not Being Heard Ahead Of Convicted Inmates' Early Release

With the Governor previously saying he has no interest in releasing violent criminals, CBS13 asked his office why she was released and finally received this response Thursday: "Due to federal and state health privacy laws, we are unable to release an inmate's medical information. More importantly, every early or expedited release decision due to the COVID-19 pandemic is thoroughly evaluated and made with public safety and public health as priorities. We take this issue very seriously."

As the number of inmates released is expected to grow this month, more than 17,500, we asked the state how many of those inmates are convicted of violent crimes and have served the majority of their sentences. The state would not respond to our question, so we turned to Chief Brian Richart, president of the Chief Probation Officers of California.

"The mass majority [released] are those who have served a substantial amount of their time," Richart said.

Of the thousands out now for accelerated release, the state says only those who have 180 days or less to serve on their sentences and are not currently serving time for violent crimes would be eligible. But Chief Richart says there are violent criminals who are right now walking free because of the early inmate release.

He says as victims advocates, probation officers have to help prevent these violent offenders from repeating their mistakes.

"It's a powerful story, it's a powerful fact and we have to be mindful of that, even though it's a small percentage, it's a big deal," Richart said.

Love says Williams is now getting a new lease on life, something her brother will never have.

"It's shameful that the CDCR and the governor and the powers that be have decided that these prisoners' rights were more important than the crimes they committed," said Love.

READ ALSO: 'Where's My Justice?' Woman Fears For Her Life As Violent Prisoner Is Released Due To Pandemic

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.