Vicki Walker, the former Oregon state senator chosen by Gov. Ted Kulongoski to chair the parole board, brings perspective to the job that few can claim — compassion, forged through personal experience, for those on both sides of the prison wall, reports The Oregonian. Her empathy for victims, she says, comes from being sexually abused by her father and her uncles when she was a child. In the legislature, she was an advocate for victim’s rights. Walker also offers understanding for inmates. Her brother spent 17 years in an Alaska prison for murder. Walker set up a post-prison release plan for him and helped him negotiate the outside world when he was released in 2003.
With that background, Walker will juggle the claims before her from those convicted and those they harmed, leading the calls on who leaves prison and who stays. “Ninety-five percent of offenders return to the community,” she says. “If we as a board don’t believe in redemption, we’re in trouble.” There’s that other side, she acknowledges: “We also want to make sure these people don’t come back.” Walker, 53, said that her father, a drywaller, was abusive, alcoholic and started molesting her in grade school. She remembers listening to him beat her mother before the two divorced when she was 10.