‘Ear Hustle’ Rahsaan Thomas Released From Jail One Year After Newsom’s Switch

Rahsaan Thomas was released from San Quentin State Prison on Wednesday, more than a year after getting a commutation from Governor Gavin Newsom for his rehabilitation behind bars, including his work for the nominated ‘Ear Hustle’ podcast. for the Pulitzer Prize.

Thomas’ supporters had advocated for his release for years. His departure from San Quentin came hours after The Times featured Thomas in a published report on dozens of people remaining in jail despite the governor’s pardon.

Thomas was among 123 people to whom Newsom has granted commutations or reduced sentences since becoming governor in 2019. But as of January, a third of those people remained behind bars – in some cases years after the recommendations of the governor, according to data from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

This is largely due to Newsom’s decision to defer to the parole board in the vast majority of his commutations instead of using his power of clemency to release them unilaterally.

Thomas’ sentence was commuted by the governor in January 2022 and he was granted parole by the board in August, but as of Tuesday he remained in San Quentin State Prison.

Thomas, 52, was sentenced to 55 years and six months to life on a second-degree murder conviction and other charges after killing someone and injuring another while dealing drugs in 2000 , according to clemency documents.

In his switch, Newsom praised Thomas for taking college courses and an array of self-help programs saying he was “devoted to his rehabilitation”. Thomas had received dozens of recommendations for clemency, including widespread support from fans of his journalism covering prison life.

In interviews with The Times in early January, Thomas said he was grateful to both the governor and the parole board and that the process had helped him heal and reflect on his past. But he also criticized the length of the process, saying “every day counts”.

Even for those granted parole, release is not immediate. There is a review period of up to 150 days after a parole board hearing, allowing decisions to be overseen by the board’s legal team and the governor before they are made. finalized.

Thomas said he and his family were struggling not knowing when he would be released.

“I can’t curse a blessing,” Thomas said from prison in January. “My only wish is that this process, if you get a switch, would be simplified. Really, it should be streamlined for everyone. … If you decided it was safe to let me go, why drag on the things ? “

Thomas could not be reached for a statement on Wednesday, but an “Ear Hustle” spokesperson said they “couldn’t be happier” about his release and called him an “important voice.”

“The ‘Ear Hustle’ team looks forward to working with Rahsaan on the outside to continue to tell the public stories about life during and after incarceration,” a spokesperson said. “This is a special moment. We are grateful to our listeners for their extraordinary support.

A fundraiser had raised nearly $10,000 on Wednesday from 137 donors to support Thomas after his release.

Los Angeles Times

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