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Nov 2010
The state’s paroling policies continue to reward criminals and endanger citizens

Winnfred Wright

A new report out of Marin County Wednesday has us wondering just how far the State of California will go – and what degree of danger it will deem acceptable – to address a budget crisis of its own making. A San Francisco Chronicle news story revealed the impending release of yet another felon who, despite his deplorable crimes against children, has been designated a “non-violent offender” and will walk out of jail early, unencumbered by the supervision of a parole agent.

If all goes according to the state’s plan, Monday will bring the early release of Winnfred Wright, who in 2003 was sentenced to 16 years in state prison for the death-by-starvation of his 19-month old son and the physical abuse of his 12 other children. Wright’s abuses against his children, whose ages ranged from 19 months to 16 years, included binding and whipping, and even taping their mouths shut for things like “stealing” food and making noise. The Chronicle reports that Ndigo Campisi-Nyah, the toddler who was starved to death, “…suffered a skull fracture, other broken bones, malformed legs, a concave chest and a humped back. He also was found to have symptoms of rickets brought on by starvation.” Despite the sickening nature of his crimes, Wright will soon be out early and unsupervised simply because, according to the state and CDCR’s policy, he is a “non-violent offender.” The Marin County District Attorney has, quite commendably, not let up in its efforts to have the CDCR reconsider its decision to assign Wright no supervision. But as the story reports, it’s unclear what will actually happen, since as of late Tuesday a CDCR spokesperson said that “…the inmate's status was still being assessed and that no decision had been made as to whether his parole will be supervised or unsupervised.”

Lawrence Joseph Brown

In another case, two days ago, child rapist Lawrence Joseph Brown was released and then quickly taken back into custody after violating the terms of his parole by being in a car with a female. His inability to follow the rules of his conditional release, however, should have come as a surprise to no one, since it had happened before. He was freed in April, but as an OC Weekly News story recounts, Brown “…quickly violated his parole by becoming transient and masking his GPS by failing to charge the battery to avoid being monitored. On May, 6, 2010, only 10 days after being released from prison, he was violated on his parole and sent back to state prison.”

Kevin Eugene Peterson

Many might also recall that soon after the state started releasing prisoners under its Non-Revocable Parole Program, Kevin Eugene Peterson, released 16 days early, wasted no time in committing four felonies: assault to commit rape, sodomy, and oral copulation; sexual battery; false imprisonment and the violation of the terms of his probation. The person he held captive and attempted to rape was a female counselor he was meeting with – 13 hours after he walked out of prison!

State officials must examine the process they use to decide which parolees will be supervised. Clearly, a better review of past offenses needs to take place, and perhaps a little more common sense should be brought to bear on the final determinations. The “non-violent offender” designation is being applied too narrowly. Determining a person’s non-violent status by only looking at the crime for which they are currently incarcerated, and whether it is deemed a “violent felony” by the Penal Code, versus examining their entire criminal history for violent behavior, is resulting in the dumping of violent prisoners into communities where little-to-no supervision leaves them too much leeway to commit new crimes. A tragic and painful reminder of this came earlier this month when Earl Ellis Green, out on parole from state prison with minimal supervision because he was deemed a “non-violent offender,” shot and killed Riverside police officer and Iraq War veteran Ryan P. Bonaminio. Green’s long criminal history included a conviction for domestic violence, and the behavior he exhibited had even prompted his family to seek a restraining order against him, but none of this changed the decision to release him with minimal supervision.

These parolees and their dangerous, repetitive, behavior are only a few examples of how the people of California are being placed in harm’s way to save a buck. As the number of prisoners who are rashly thrown out of jail with insufficient supervision climbs, so do the odds that the majority of them will commit new crimes against residents of this state. Californians deserve a lot better from their leaders than ill-conceived “solutions” that threaten their safety.



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