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07
Jun 2011
California corrections mess: The ‘gift’ that keeps on giving

It seems like a triple witching hour for public safety in California. Instead of fixing the serious problems at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), the state is giving up and dumping the parole supervision crisis on local governments.

This began with the release of supposedly nonviolent prisoners to relieve overcrowding in state prisons. But the state’s cost-saving measure has already proven too expensive for Californians who are losing their lives and livelihoods.

In recent years, lax parole supervision paved the way for parolees to commit heinous crimes without immediate detection. Phillip Garrido, a registered sex offender, raped and kidnapped 11-year-old Jaycee Dugard in 1991 and held her captive for 18 years. John Albert Gardner, another registered sex offender, kidnapped, raped and murdered Chelsea King and Amber Dubois. Charles Samuel murdered 17-year-old Lily Burk in 2009. And last year, 34-year-old Chere Osmanhodzic and five-year-old Aaron Shannon Jr. were murdered by parolees who were not being properly supervised.

Now, the state budget being hammered out in Sacramento will shift the responsibility of housing inmates and monitoring parolees to local governments.

Already, Los Angeles County cities are bracing for an influx of over 11,000 parolees, with the majority likely to land in Los Angeles. And high recidivism rates for California parolees don’t bode well for the city’s residents. 2009 CDCR figures show that 40 percent of felons paroled under California supervision in 2006 were sent back to prison within a year for committing the same offense that led to their initial incarceration. By the two-year mark, this number rose to 52 percent.

Making matters worse is that this comes as we also contend with non-revocable parole, the ill-conceived program that frees parolees of the usual requirement to report to parole agents once they’re back on the streets. Unlike regular parolees, these offenders won’t be sent back to prison for parole violations, which means they’ll have free rein to behave and move about as they please until they commit their next crime.

We’ve been warning against this dangerous trend and calling attention to the consequences for a long time. But as long as the state continues to shirk its responsibilities and neglect the well-documented mess at CDCR, we’ll do our best to keep it in the public’s mind.

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