Bilenda Harris-Ritter, a lifelong Republican and daughter of crime victims, was being fired from the California Board of Parole Hearings by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger because she is considered soft on criminals, says the Monterey (CA) Herald. A few months earlier she’d seen a Web site criticizing her for granting “too many” paroles to prisoners with life sentences. In the six months she served, Harris-Ritter says she gave only 12 parole grants out of approximately 300 life cases – about four percent. To the Doris Tate Crime Victims Bureau, 12 was far too many. “We were concerned with her performance on the board,” said Christine Ward, executive director of the nonprofit group.
A Santa Clara County judge recently issued a strongly worded ruling aimed at overhauling the Board of Parole Hearings. “Something is certainly wrong” with the board, Superior Court Judge Linda Condron wrote when she ordered the “malfunctioning” board to come up with clear criteria for denying parole to lifer inmates. In all of nearly 3,000 cases reviewed by the court, the board’s reasons for denying parole to convicted murderers, Condron said, are “vague and all inclusive and thus truly meaningless.”