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A prisoner who performs a heroic act is entitled to a shorter sentence — even if serving time under the state’s Three Strikes law, the California Supreme Court ruled Thursday. Ronnie Young, serving nine years for first-degree burglary, sought a sentence reduction of up to one year after saving the life of work supervisor Bud Stocking, who was choking on food, at the California Men’s Colony in San Luis Obispo in 2001. A divided appellate court, however, ruled Young wasn’t eligible for a reduction — set out in Penal Code § 2935 — because he was subject to a Three Strikes limitation on post-sentence credits. The Supreme Court unanimously disagreed, saying there is a difference between reducing a sentence based on a heroic act and post-sentence conduct credits. The court also said a provision encouraging good behavior is commendable. “As petitioner emphasizes,” Justice Ming Chin wrote, “his heroic act was particularly significant because other prisoners may have become hostile toward him for helping �the enemy,’ and prison guards could have misconstrued petitioner’s actions as attacking rather than saving the supervisor. “It is difficult to imagine,” he continued, “that the Legislature intended to give all prisoners, exceptthose Three Strikes prisoners, an incentive to save another’s life.” Even though Young has already been paroled, the court said in a footnote, the ruling could aid future prisoners. The ruling is In re Young , 04 C.D.O.S. 3265.

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