A prisoner convicted in 2005 for an Orinda burglary is the first person in Contra Costa County to have their sentence reduced under a 2019 state law allowing a district attorney to recommend a prisoner be resentenced.
Derric Craig Lewis, 61, was convicted of residential burglary and sentenced to 27 years in prison. That sentence was revised on April 16, when the Contra Costa County Superior Court reduced it to 17 years -- the time he had already served.
In October 2004, Lewis took BART to Orinda where he entered a residence while two people were in the home. He stole a purse and a bike. He later said that he stole the property to purchase drugs to support his addiction.
At the time of the offense he was on probation after a number of felony convictions. In light of his prior offenses, he was sentenced to 27 years in prison.
In 2018, California enacted Assembly Bill 2942 to allow a district attorney who believed that a given sentence no longer served the interests of justice to ask the sentencing court to "recall" the sentence and resentence the prisoner as if he or she had never been sentenced.
The law allows for redressing excessive sentences, said Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton.
"Sentencing a man for 27 years for such an offense undermines our ability to hold the most violent accountable for crimes in our community," Becton said. "The strain on the state prison and criminal justice system is immense from these failed policies of our past. To truly move forward, we must be open to correcting the wrongs of the past."
The district attorney's power is discretionary and the statute doesn't contain a formula that says when resentencing is appropriate.
For the People is an organization that works with district attorneys around the state to identify individuals who can safely be released from prison.
The group identifies a number of relevant factors, including the prisoner's disciplinary record, his or her "record of rehabilitation," and whether release would in any way endanger public safety. The prisoner's readiness to re-enter society successfully is also highly relevant.
The organization worked with the Contra Costa County District Attorney and Public Defender's Office on Lewis's case.
According to the organization, Lewis obtained a high school diploma in 2013 and thereafter an Associate of Arts degree, taking courses in business, sociology, English, math and psychology. He has maintained a close connection to his family while in prison.
The United States is home to 25 percent of world's total prison population, according to the World Population Review, an independent non-profit organization located in Walnut, Calif. that publishes demographic data.
California has the second largest prison population in the U.S. (Texas is first), with more than 122,000 incarcerated in 2021, according to the same source.