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Parole Policy Permeates Press:  Thanks to Doug Berman for posting several links to regional news articles discussing local parole reform and decisions.  Berman links to a Reuters article by Dan Whitcomb, detailing California's decision not to parole former Manson follower Susan Atkins; a Richmond Times-Dispatch piece by Frank Green reporting on a study that shows that "Some Inmates eligible for parole held longer than guidelines suggest"; and an editorial from the Gainesville Sun on Florida's efforts at parole reform.  Berman's post highlights aspects of the articles that make state determinations to withhold parole appear unreasonable.  For example, he points to the portion of the Richmond Times-Dispatch article that states: "Some 706 parole-eligible inmates are being been held longer in Virginia prisons, at $24,332 each per year, than recommended under the current no-parole sentencing guidelines."  He balances this statement with the quote "However, the report also found that of the parole-eligible inmates still in prison, 88 percent were convicted of violent crimes and nearly 80 percent have not yet served longer than stipulated under the sentencing guidelines."  A person that reads the article a little further will learn why some of these offenders are serving longer than stipulated under the guidelines.  First, some of the aggravating factors that lead to longer sentences are not considered within the sentencing guidelines.  "For example, of the 80 parole-eligible drug offenders serving longer terms than would be required now, three out of four already had been revoked from parole at least once, and one-third had two or more parole revocations." Second, as described by Helen Fahey, the parole board chairwoman, these prisoners "are almost all violent criminals -- they're predominantly murderers and sex offenders. . . . They're not in there for stealing cars or writing bad checks."

Comparing Texas' Prison Reform with California:  At Grits for Breakfast, Scott Henson compares California's "partisan prison meltdown" with Texas' struggle over prison overcrowding.  Henson writes that when the Texas legislature confronted the issue in 2003, 2005 and 2007 it did not turn the issue into a partisan debate.  Instead, it approached projections that Texas' already full prisons would require billions in new construction to keep up their astronomical growth rate with bipartisan support.  This led to laws requiring judges to sentence offenders to probation for first-offense, less-than-a-gram possession cases; revamp probation in order to provide more meaningful supervision and leave sentence lengths alone; and expand funding for diversion programs.  Henson contrasts Texas' approach with California's "partisan meltdown characterized by tuff-on-crime demagoguery, not to mention gridlock in the face of federal court orders requiring" California to release inmates.  He writes, "[i]ronically, California may be suffering because it's trying to confront this problem with a Democratic majority. The turning point for Texas' prison system came in 2003, when Republicans found themselves in charge..."

Prison Privatization:  CrimProf Blog posts a link to Richard Culp's SSRN article "Prison Privatization Turns Twenty-Five: The Evolution of a Mature Private Prison Industry in the United States."  Culp's article argues that the realities of the mature prison privatization market do not match the promise of innovation and quality improvements voiced by privatization advocates during the 1980s and early 1990s.  He believes that with fewer companies running private prisons, and fewer states buying incarceration services "[t]he net effect is that any real cost advantages of privatization are marginal at best, private prison programs have become virtually indistinguishable from public prisons, and the promise of innovation remains unfulfilled." 

And one for fun...Ashby Jones reports on Wall Street Journal's Law Blog on a Honolulu city council bill that would criminalize being "smelly" while riding the city's public-transportation system.  Gordon Y.K. Pang covers the story in the Honolulu Advertiser.  If it passes, the bill would give one more reason to choose Hawaii over New York for your next vacation. As Jones notes, "devoted riders of New York City's subway system...[have] had the occasion to smell some unholy smells."

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