80 percent of murderers eligible for parole released


Crime Victims Action Alliance is calling on Governor Brown to release more detailed information on the convicted killers whose releases he declined to stop last year.

The state parole board approved 400 releases -- just 10 percent of the cases -- and the governor reversed only 71 decisions. That gives Brown, a Democrat, a higher release rate than his two predecessors. Brown's release rate stands at 80 percent.

Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was less generous, denying freedom nearly a quarter of the time.

Democratic Governor Gray Davis was the stingiest, keeping most lifers behind bars, letting only 2 percent go.

"Under this administration, it seems very much like the floodgates have been open and let them go free," said Christine Ward, Crime Victims Action Alliance. "That concerns us terribly."

"The rates may be different, but the results remain the same," said Evan Westrup, a spokesman for Gov. Brown.

The Brown administration points out this governor is only following the law, and that other governors were not. Under the Schwarzenegger administration, for instance, the courts stepped in and let almost all paroled killers go despite what that governor wanted.

"Other governors have routinely flouted the law and ignored the law," said Westrup. "And what the law says is that if an individual has been deemed not a threat to public safety, then the governor must allow the parole decision to stand."

Brown's aides say the streets are not any more dangerous.

Stanford University found that of the 860 murderers released since 1995, only five were arrested for another crime, none violent. That's less than one-half of 1 percent.

"We feel good about these decisions," said Westrup in reference to the governor's reversals. "They are reasoned and they're thorough and we're confident."

While Charles Manson follower Tex Watson was denied parole for the 17th time in 2011, crime victims groups wonder about the next time.

"Many of the Manson clan have done perfect in prison," said Christine Ward. "And they could very well end up being in front of the governor some day who unfortunately, at this rate, may let them out."

The Governor's Office also says a federal court order to reduce the population is not a factor in parole decisions.

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