A California law that took effect Jan. 25 was supposed to improve the state’s parole system, says the Sacramento Bee. The idea was to shift resources away from nonviolent, low-level offenders thought to be less likely to re-offend, or at least less likely to commit serious or violent new crimes. By removing them from supervision of parole agents, the agents would have more time to supervise the violent and serious offenders who have won release, the thinking went. “The lower-level offender that we have targeted for (non-revocable parole) gets no value out of parole supervision,” said corrections spokesman Oscar Hidalgo. “The old system wasn’t working; placing everyone on parole supervision was not working. Everyone agrees with that.”
Each month, 10,000 inmates leave state prisons, and corrections officials should be watching those most likely to commit new serious crimes. From day one, the law has come under attack from crime victims’ groups, law enforcement, and others. Last week, Assemblyman Ted Lieu released data that indicate that inmates convicted of serious and violent crimes are being released, despite assurances to the contrary. “Some of those crimes are shocking,” Lieu said. They include 10 inmates convicted of possession of deadly or illegal weapons, 50 imprisoned for being drug addicts possessing a firearm, six for illegal possession of an assault weapon, and one for solicitation of murder. Corrections officials say that every inmate who has been released on non-revocable parole has had his or her file reviewed, any gang affiliations studied and been subjected to a rigorous risk assessment. Officials plan to review files for 25,000 inmates; already more than 12,000 have been reviewed. Of those, 5,801 have been released on non-revocable parole; 4,391 have been judged not eligible to be released without supervision.