The number of California parolees freed from law enforcement supervision jumped more than sixfold in April as a little-known law that speeds up the release process took effect, reports the Los Angeles Times. About 8,500 parolees were taken off supervision, a number that surprised many law enforcement officials who said they were racing to figure out how to deal with it. By contrast, 1,300 parolees were discharged in March. The shift means parolees get fewer rehabilitation services designed to ease their transition out of prison, and it reduces the powers police have to monitor their conduct. When a criminal is on parole, police have broad authority to conduct random searches and arrest him on such violations as possessing weapons or associating with other felons.
“Taking away parolee status, from a law enforcement perspective, removes a valuable tool that officers use to ensure compliance with the law,” Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell said. “We will no longer have the ability to violate their parole based on criminal behavior but rather we will have to arrest and prosecute them on a new charge, which is resource-intensive and time-consuming.” Some law enforcement officials fear that a cut in rehabilitation — which includes counseling, drug intervention and housing assistance — will make it harder for ex-criminals to get back into society and will make recidivism more likely. “There is no reason to expect that they will be monitored or rehabilitated as they have been in the past,” Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said.