Domestic violence is one of the most prevalent crimes in American society, permeating every social class, ethnic group, and political party. Some batterers, like former NFL player Ray Rice, are thrust into the spotlight when news of their battering goes public. For every incident that is reported, however, many more go unreported. This fact alone highlights the inherent danger of domestic violence. For a crime of this magnitude, the natural consequence would seem to be a lengthy prison sentence. In California, however, crimes of domestic violence are not classified as “violent” crimes under the Penal Code. The word “violence” is in the very name of these crimes, yet the California State Legislature has chosen not to define them as such.

Instead, California is providing these offenders with the opportunity for early release. In November 2016, California voters passed The Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016, more commonly known as Proposition 57. The Proposition allows for “nonviolent” offenders to appear before a parole board after completing the full term of their primary offense, which could allow these “nonviolent” batterers to get out of prison decades early.

This Comment will argue that California’s failure to enumerate domestic violence as a “violent” felony will be detrimental to both domestic violence survivors and California at large. First, this Comment will discuss the language of California’s domestic violence crimes and explain why these crimes should be classified as violent. Next, this Comment will examine how Proposition 57 will affect survivors of domestic violence by discussing the language and factors for early parole and how Proposition 57 completely undermines stated protections for victims. This Comment will conclude that in order to combat this issue, California will need to enumerate domestic violence as a violent crime and increase rehabilitation programs for offenders while in jail.

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