California parole officials are scaling back oversight for thousands of felons, bumping them to supervision levels that require nothing more than mail-in forms – or even a new level that includes no formal supervision at all, reports the San Diego Union-Tribune. State corrections officials say they reduce oversight only for nonviolent and low-risk criminals as the agency pushes forward with an overhaul. “There is no policy direction to the field to systematically reduce supervision levels,” said Scott Kernan, the corrections undersecretary who oversees parole. “We have to manage our caseloads. We cannot have parole agents having artificially high caseloads.”
Interviews, data, and internal documents collected by the Union-Tribune over two months point to a methodical effort to cut costs and ease prison overcrowding. Fewer parolees, on lower supervision, mean fewer tickets back to prison for criminals who won't fit there. “They don't want parolees back before the parole board to be returned to prison,” said Harriet Salarno of Crime Victims United, an advocacy group suing the department over its release policies. “This is all about reducing the prison population.” The department's numbers reflect the trend. Between April 2007 and April 2010, the parolee population fell about 10 percent. The number on “high control” supervision fell 13 percent, and the medium supervision level fell 22 percent. The lowest supervision level grew 16 percent. The prison system has come under increased scrutiny since convicted sex offender John Gardner III was paroled and then killed Amber Dubois, 14, and Chelsea King, 17. The newspaper reviewed dozens of cases where serious and violent offenders were assigned low or infrequent supervision, only to commit new assaults, robberies or murders.