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Mar 2012
Bureaucratic hoops let parolees hide behind privacy laws
LAPPL Board of Directors

You’d think the same state legislators who backed the release of thousands of parolees from state prisons into local communities would at least ensure that local police could know the identity of these convicted criminals. But in its haste to enact prison realignment, the legislature made it too easy for parolees to slip into neighborhoods unencumbered by their criminal past.

Sacramento lawmakers failed to adjust state privacy laws, which currently restrict local police’s ability to get immediate information on the parolees coming into their community. As it stands, police chiefs must prepare and sign a statement declaring their need to know parolees’ names, addresses and criminal history in the interest of public safety. Only then can state parole officials provide the information.

State corrections officials should be able to provide police with a complete roster of former prisoners arriving in neighborhoods. Given felons’ high recidivism rates, it’s only logical for police to review parolee data when certain crimes occur in their area.

California Assemblymember Brian Nestande is among those who think police chiefs should be able to access this information without having to jump through bureaucratic hoops. “If there’s a way we can define that in law, that the police have the right to know without going through an unnecessary process, I’ll certainly look into working with others to make that correction,” Nestande told The Desert Sun. Assemblymembers from L.A. looking for a public safety issue to support would do well to make contact with Nestande.

The increased crime local communities are already seeing is one of the early failures of this poorly conceived law. At this point, all we can ask for is a chance to identify these convicted criminals so we know who is roaming among us in our communities. Here’s hoping the legislature is up to the task.

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