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Schwarzenegger: Freed inmate shouldn't return to prison

Court ruled Martinez released too soon and must serve 65 more days

Pamela Martinez served five years in prison for stealing a toolbox. Now, she says she has turned her life around.

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Woman ordered back to prison
Arnold Schwarzenegger
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
Justice and Rights

(CNN) -- California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said he backs an effort to excuse a woman from returning to prison, after she's been out of jail for more than two years, to serve more time after a court ruled she had been released too early.

Schwarzenegger sent a letter dated March 25 to a California Supreme Court judge, supporting Pamela Martinez, who has been out of jail for two-and-a-half years, asking the court to recommend her sentence be commuted.

The California Supreme Court recently issued a ruling that she was released too early, and ordered her to serve the remaining 65 days of her sentence.

"Ms. Martinez has been out of prison on her own recognizance while her case was on appeal for approximately two-and-a-half years," the governor said in his letter. "During this time it appears she has led a law-abiding life, been gainfully employed and received a great deal of community support and encouragement.

"I would submit that her sentence be commuted to time served and that she be allowed to commence her period of parole forthwith."

Martinez, who lives in Vista, California, north of San Diego, went to prison under California's three-strikes law in 1996 for stealing a toolbox. After serving five years, she was released and says she has turned her life around.

"I made poor choices in life, but this isn't who I am today," she said.

Martinez said she stole to feed a drug addiction. Now she is praised by her Home Depot supervisor as a "reliable, responsible and dependable" worker.

She said the ruling will cost her her job and put her new life on hold.

The American Civil Liberties Union calls Martinez's situation "a textbook case of the waste, cruelty and injustice of our criminal justice system" pointing out that Attorney General Bill Lockyer "has spent over $2 million of taxpayers' money to pursue Pamela's return to prison."

"California's criminal justice system wants to pull Pam back and derail her hard-won successes," the ACLU said.

CNN's Frank Buckley contributed to this report

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