California will start a program in two counties that ultimately could free tens of thousands of ex-convicts from parole years earlier than scheduled, the Los Angeles Times reports. The plan would start in Orange and San Bernardino counties within two months and focus on nonviolent state parolees. It would encourage rehabilitation and enable overburdened parole agents to focus on serious offenders, especially sexual predators.
Corrections Secretary James Tilton said the trial program, which could expand statewide early next year, would bring California in line with 33 other states in screening parolees to determine which most need to be monitored after their prison terms. Under the plan, parolees could be discharged after six months. Joan Petersilia, a professor of criminology at UC Irvine who advises Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on prison issues, said the state uses a “cookie cutter” approach that treats all parolees the same. It confuses them about whether they will get sent back to prison for minor or major violations, and wastes resources devoted to programs that could help ex-convicts rejoin society because there is no incentive to attend them, she said. The state’s pilot program would motivate them to attend the programs with the prospect of ending their parole sooner, she said.