Despite his “tough-guy swagger,” California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is pursuing a permissive parole policy, freeing convicted murderers in numbers that dwarf those of his two predecessors, says the Los Angeles Times. In less than a year, Schwarzenegger has approved parole for 48 people serving life terms for murder. Former Gov. Gray Davis released eight in five years. The 48, plus 10 inmates serving life terms for other offenses, is as many as were released in a six-year span in the 1990s covering most of Republican Gov. Pete Wilson’s tenure. Schwarzenegger spokeswoman Terri Carbaugh said he “believes that people can reform and be reformed…. When he sits down with his attorneys to review parole matters, he’s not thinking about the political consequences. He’s thinking about public safety and the individual at hand.” The state Board of Prison Terms, led by a Schwarzenegger appointee, is paroling inmates at seven times the rate under Wilson.
Keith Wattley of the Prison Law Office near San Quentin State Prison cautioned that “these are still really low numbers. It’s really the cream of the cream of the crop who ever get to the governor’s office. While there’s some hope, it’s still a bad situation for them.” “Compared to Gray Davis, Attila the Hun would look moderate,” said law Prof. Franklin Zimring of the University of California at Berkeley. Schwarzenegger may have less to fear, he added. With a public image from movie roles of heroic cops – battling drug dealers, criminals, and even Satan – “The Terminator” may have more space than his predecessors to free prisoners without appearing soft on crime.