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Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman jumped into the prison legislation melee Friday in an e-mail in which she called plans to release some 27,000 prisoners over the next fiscal year "an unbelievable violation of the trust Californians put in their leaders to carry out the first duty of government - public safety."

Among other measures, the bill would allow some inmates to be released early and wouldn't automatically send back to prison parole violators. The state Senate approved the plan Thursday, but the Assembly has stalled on the legislation.

In the e-mail, Whitman also criticized another part of the bill appointing a commission to rewrite the state's sentencing laws, saying the commission "is a dangerous and poorly disguised attempt to overturn the will of voters who overwhelming approved the Three Strikes and You're Out Law."

For the record, the commission would have no authority to rewrite Proposition 184.

Whitman spokeswoman Sarah Pompei expanded on the e-mail in a written statement:

"Three Strikes is an initiative but the commission, as passed by the Senate, could pick apart the law by picking and choosing which felonies can be turned into misdemeanors," Pompei wrote.

"Once you open the door and start talking about downgrading felonies to misdemeanors, which this commission would have the power to do, you begin to dismantle criminal sentencing in California and weaken 3 strikes and overturn the will of the people."


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