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State searching for 500 unsupervised parolees

April 15, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Lawmakers eliminated parole for some prisoners to save millions of dollars, but hundreds of high-risk inmates were released without supervision, apparently by mistake. At least one lawmaker is trying to figure out how to fix the mess.A new law allowed the California Department of Corrections to release more than 6,600 low-risk inmates on unsupervised, non-revocable parole. But the agency now says about 500 of those need to be supervised after all.

The department's software program that helps assess the risk of parolees committing another crime has been upgraded. Now it takes into consideration an inmate's previous county convictions.

"The previous model did not have that additional information. Now we have it," said Gordon Hinkle, spokesman for the Calif. Dept. of Corrections. "So we do know they're higher risk."

State Assemblyman Ted Lieu (D-Torrance), who is running for California attorney general, disagrees. He's been saying all along that some of those felons should have been on supervised parole because their crimes were violent.

"Solicitation to commit murder. Battery causing serious injury. Battery on a police officer," said Lieu. "These are dangerous people that are walking the streets, and now the department says, 'Oops. We made a mistake.'"

"We do not feel it's a mistake," said Hinkle. "Again, I think it's the department being very precise in applying the risk-assessment model."

Whether there's blame or not, the state now has to find those 500 offenders who need to be on supervised parole. Law enforcement warns that crooks aren't always truthful about their whereabouts.

"We went and verified residences the same day and two out of five gave us bogus addresses," said Chief Probation Officer Don Meyer.

Then there are questions over whether the state can legally put offenders on supervised parole after giving them a signed document that says they are not.

"I don't see what compels them to even come back and sign a new document or why they would do that," said Lieu.


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