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Calif. inmates released without supervision relocated

May 25, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Hundreds of dangerous criminals were freed from California prisons with no parole supervision last year. They have since been located and put on parole.

California Inspector General Bruce Monfross blamed a faulty computerized risk-assessment program for the release of hundreds of dangerous criminals without parole supervision: 1,500 inmates were improperly designated; 450 turned out to be offenders.

State Senator Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) asked for the audit of the controversial new program that was supposed to only let out low-risk inmates without supervision. It was designed to save the state money by only making parole agents keep track of dangerous criminals.

"It confirms my worst fears, that the Department of Corrections has been releasing hundreds, if not thousands, of dangerous, highly violent felons without any parole supervision," said Lieu.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation says the report is flawed, pointing out the 23-percent error rate has been improved. In fact, all 450 felons have been brought back and put on supervised parole.

The agency stands by the risk assessment program developed by University of California-Irvine.

"It predicts risk, in fact, better than human beings can do. It uses factors proven to predict risk," said Lee Seale, deputy chief of staff of the corrections department. "Their error rate is faulty to begin with. We dispute the data."

Still, the error rate is 8 percent under the improved system, and critics like Harriet Salarno, whose daughter was murdered, say that still amounts to hundreds of unsupervised dangerous criminals on the streets.

"I don't want anybody walking in my footsteps," said Salarno, who heads Crime Victims United.

The U.S. Supreme Court just ordered California to reduce its severely overcrowded prison system by more than 30,000 inmates.

Lieu wonders if Corrections can follow through on that without putting the public in even more danger.

"If the Department of Corrections can't safely figure out how to identify felons who they want to release out on parole, I don't see how they can safely identify 33,000 prisoners they want to release," said Lieu.

Senator Lieu wants the unsupervised parole program suspended until the problems are fixed.

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