Once again, the California parole board has recommended the release of a 95-year-old murderer, John Rodriguez, the state’s oldest inmate. didn’t seem to know what was happening to him. “I hope the governor does the right thing –and quickly,” said Rodriguez’ attorney, Michael Beckman. The Rodriguez case casts a spotlight on California’s aging prison population and the reluctance of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to release prisoners convicted of murder even if they have served their minimum sentences. This was the seventh time that the parole board recommended Rodriguez’s release. Each previous time, the governor – Pete Wilson, Gray Davis and Schwarzenegger – refused to grant parole.
Since 1988, when voters gave the governor the power to overrule parole board recommendations for “lifers,” the number from that category who have been freed has dwindled. Davis released only six during his five years in office; Schwarzenegger released 23 last year, down from 72 in 2004. One recent projection is that by 2030, California will have 33,000 geriatric prisoners, compared with 9,500 now.