What to Know
- Voters approved Prop 57 in 2016 to allow inmates serving "3 Strikes" sentences to be eligible for early parole.
- An estimated 3,000 to 4,000 nonviolent "third-strikers" could be affected by the new law.
- In 1994, "3 Strikes" was implemented to dramatically increase punishment for defendants with "serious" or "violent" crimes on their records.
The first inmate to be freed from prison under a new resentencing law, thanked the judge who initially sentenced him to 50 years to life, saying the time behind bars was necessary.
In 2003, Kent Williams was sentenced to 50 years to life under the state's "Three Strikes Law" after convictions of burglary and auto theft.
"I was, 'I'm never going to get out, I might as well go out with a bang,'" the San Diego man recalled.
However, in prison he found faith, sobriety and mentorship.
Then, 16 years later, a new law arrived.
"You're looking at a grateful man here today," Williams said.
AB2942 went into effect in January and allows prosecutors to review cases to see if sentences were unjustly harsh.
San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan said Williams' case was an ideal candidate for the new law.
"He had moved forward with his life and we had even received a letter from the correctional officer about his behavior that was positing while in prison," Stephan said.
Prosecutors can recommend a reduced sentence but a judge has the final say.
When he appeared before the judge who sentenced him over a decade ago as part of the review, Williams said he thanked him.
"Every year, every second, every moment was necessary to get me to this point here," he said. "You're looking at a miracle. You're looking at a miracle standing here. If God did it for me, then he can do it for you, too."
Now 57, Williams has been out of prison for about two months. He will be on state parole for three years.
He said he now works full-time and is registered for college in the fall.
If there is someone you believe could benefit from his law, go to the county's website.