We have long warned that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s (CDCR) troubling non-revocable parole program for “low risk offenders” would be a disaster. Law enforcement’s input was arrogantly ignored by CDCR, and tragically, we were proven right.
An Inspector General’s report confirmed the existence of fundamental flaws in the program. One startling flaw was in the CDCR’s vaunted computer system. A factor for release eligibility was the inmate’s record behind bars to determine their risk of reoffending once released, but the computer system did not access the prison disciplinary records of the inmates. Another flaw was that although inmates convicted of sex or violent crimes were to be excluded, the database used by CDCR was missing conviction information for nearly half of the state's 16.4 million arrest records.
Flaws in this system resulted in a potentially deadly experience for two LAPD officers. In July 2010, non-revocable parolee Javier Joseph Rueda tried to murder these officers by shooting at them, but they returned fire and killed him.
Now, as we stand on the precipice of a massive flood of inmates released in Los Angeles County and throughout California, CDCR is sure to say they will screen to release only the least violent inmates. They will undoubtedly proclaim that development of a release policy should be left to their “expertise.” But we heard the same false assurances about their “expertise” before and during the fiasco that was the “non-revocable parole” program.
The U.S. Supreme Court order leaves little choice but to release numerous inmates. The question now is: how can we ensure that only the “lowest risk” inmates get released? We believe the answer is to set up a commission of local law enforcement leaders, such as police chiefs, sheriffs and district attorneys from across the state, who would be tasked with crafting new release policies.
The last two years have proven that deciding who to release, and the criteria and systems to be employed, is not something CDCR can handle alone.
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