Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick's revamped Parole Board has voted since last April to grant early release to 17 serious criminal offenders, most of them probably convicted murderers, but the panel has not notified any of the inmates – or the families of their victims – that they are on the path to freedom, reports the Boston Globe. The delay in processing applications for parole by so-called lifers – inmates serving sentences of 15 years to life – is part of a broader backlog that has built up at the Parole Board since a paroled lifer fatally shot a Woburn police officer, triggering a shake-up at the agency.
The Parole Board also has failed to notify more than 100 lifers that their requests for parole over the last year have been rejected.Prisoner advocates say the delays, coupled with stricter standards for releasing other inmates on parole, have contributed heavily to a 58 percent drop in the number of inmates who are released under parole supervision, from 1,028 in 2010 to 435 in 2011. “The total effect is more people in prison overall, and fewer people released under supervision,'' said James R. Pingeon of Prisoners' Legal Services, a group that provides representation to inmates. “It's doubly bad.'' The Parole Board chairman, Josh Wall, defends his agency's performance, arguing that the new board is simply being more careful while coping with a shortage of resources.