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Some violent felons released without parole

April 7, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Why are violent felons being released from California prisons with no supervised parole? There may be problems with a new law. The law was supposed to reduce the inmate population by eliminating parole for certain non-violent offenders. But it turns out many violent felons are going unsupervised too. A lot of people are very unhappy about it.In a review of some 2,000 records of prisoners who were released without any parole, hundreds were convicted of violent crimes.

State Assemblyman Ted Lieu (D-Torrance), who is running for California attorney general, couldn't believe what he was reading.

"I was shocked because we have state prisoners being released without parole supervision now walking the streets for some heinous crimes," said Lieu.

Only low-risk offenders were supposed to receive no supervised parole.

More than 250 felons released without supervision since the law took effect in January served time for:

  • Certain sex crimes
  • Involuntary manslaughter
  • False imprisonment
  • Explosives or weapons possession
  • Domestic violence

California corrections officials say don't blame them. They didn't write the law, the legislature did.

"To be criticized on a penal code implementation that we didn't create is not right and it's not fair," said Gordon Hinkle, spokesman for the California Corrections Department.

"The Department of Corrections is not following the letter of the law," said Lieu. "They have a sex offender walking the streets without parole supervision."

The elimination of parole for certain inmates came about last year when lawmakers and the governor had to come up with ways to close a back-breaking budget deficit.

Prisons had to cut expenses by changing the mandatory parole policy for every prisoner released.

The new parole law is supposed to reduce the state inmate population by 6,500 and save California $500 million in its first year.

The Schwarzenegger administration supported the plan because it reduced the caseload of parole agents.

"It's allowing us to concentrate our efforts on the more serious and violent offenders so that those that are more likely to re-offend are getting a higher level of supervision," said Hinkle.

Crime victim groups say this is exactly what they feared.

"There are no non-serious, violent offenders," said Harriet Salarno, president of Crime Victims United.

Until the law is changed, the prison system will continue to release without more inmates, who were convicted of all those same crimes.