In recent years, some judges have sided with prison lifers, ruling that the state can’t deny an inmate parole solely because of the gravity of his original offense but rather must provide “some evidence” that he would pose a threat to public safety if released, reports the Los Angeles Times. The notion that corrections officials must show that an inmate remains a threat to society is being challenged U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.
About 23,000 California state prisoners serving life sentences are technically eligible for parole. Until the 1980s, when a succession of tough-on-crime governors came to power, parole was routine for those sentenced to life who showed evidence of rehabilitation. Despite a federal court order to reduce prison overcrowding, neither Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger nor corrections officials have suggested considering violent offenders for early release. Victims’ rights organizations defend the governor’s responsibility to keep murderers off the streets, especially in the current economic crisis, which has cut funding for law enforcement and parole supervision.