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Governor Brown To Propose Ballot Measure Limiting Length Of Criminal Sentences

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - Gov. Jerry Brown is announcing a ballot initiative Wednesday that would change how long felons serve in prison and how many juveniles are tried as adults, according to people familiar with his plans.

Brown scheduled an announcement Wednesday afternoon with law enforcement and faith leaders to make what his office termed a major announcement on public safety reform.

It would give prison officials broad authority to grant sentence credits for inmates who complete rehabilitation programs, according to those briefed on the fourth-term Democratic governor's plan.

It would also allow non-violent felons to seek parole after they have completed their base sentences, without enhancements for things like gang involvement or firearms possession that can add years to a prison term.

It also would require judges, instead of prosecutors, to decide if juveniles should be tried in adult court.

The initiative that Brown is proposing would further reduce the state's prison population, which is under a cap ordered by a panel of three federal judges with backing from the U.S. Supreme Court.

The state is currently under the headcount limit thanks in part to voter-approved ballot measures that reduced penalties for career criminals and those convicted of certain drug and property crimes. But that population is expected to grow again, and the state is making do now by sending inmates to out-of-state prisons and keeping them in rundown facilities within California.

Brown, who is termed out of office in 2018, has about $24 million in his campaign account that he can spend on initiative or candidate campaigns. Wednesday's announcement is expected to be the first time he has said how he intends to use it.

The governor helped create the state's "determinate sentencing" system when he was governor in the 1970s and 1980s, but has previously said he now has regrets that it has led to less discretion. His initiative would change that system by allowing for nonviolent inmates to be paroled earlier, after they complete their base sentences without the numerous enhancements that have been added over the years.

Some of the proposals expected in Wednesday's announcement are similar to changes ordered by the federal judges to reduce the inmate population.

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