Recently in Parole and Probation Category

The San Diego Union-Tribune has this editorial on Proposition 57 and the recent court decision on its application to sex offenders:

The San Diego Union-Tribune Editorial Board has advocated for criminal justice reform more often than any other editorial board in California in recent years for good reason. The U.S. has more -- to much more -- crime than nations with less punitive judicial systems, and in California, tough-on-crime policies from the 1990s have led tens of thousands of people with salvageable lives to be warehoused in prison long after they posed a likely public threat.

Even so, in 2016, our board could not bring itself to endorse Proposition 57, a deeply flawed measure Gov. Jerry Brown trumpeted as a big step forward for the criminal justice reform movement. The problem was that the measure was originally supposed to target juvenile justice, but it was revamped into a much broader constitutional amendment that stated anyone convicted of a nonviolent felony offense would be eligible for early parole consideration. A lower court ruling said the changes were unacceptable, but in June 2016, the California Supreme Court overturned the ruling on the grounds that a 2014 state law allowed flawed measures to be fixed before being put before voters.

Now we know how flawed this measure truly was.
It takes a lot for a major California newspaper to denounce a criminal justice "reform" measure.  They generally march in step with the soft-on-crime crowd.  I hope we see more newspapers marching to a different drummer as the truth becomes more clear.
Michele Hanisee has this post for the L.A. Association of Deputy District Attorneys:

We repeatedly warned prior to the election that the ambiguities of language in Prop 57 would allow sex offenders to be released early from prison.  The proponents realized the public wouldn't support that, so led by Governor Jerry Brown they responded by promising that CDCR would write regulations to make sure sex-offenders weren't released early. And so they did.  CDCR wrote into their regulations that registered sex offenders were excluded from the early release provisions of Prop 57.

We knew that approach would fail, because a regulation cannot expand the scope of the law that it purports to implement. Now, the completely foreseeable result of this poor drafting has occurred. This Friday, a Superior Court struck down CDCR's after-the-fact attempt to write into the regulations what was not in the underlying law. "The Court cannot insert words into an initiative to achieve what the court presumes to be the voters' unexpressed intent; neither can CDCR," said the court.
In the 1980's, America largely came to a consensus that parole was a bad idea.  It was abolished altogether in the federal system and sharply restricted elsewhere.  The pendulum has now swung back, and there is good reason to believe that it has swung too far.

Eric Siddall has this post for the [Los Angeles] Association of Deputy District Attorneys, with the above title:

The state parole board continues its reckless policy of early release for violent felons. We previously documented some examples of the parole board's dangerous trend of ignoring public safety when labeling inmates to be released early as "not a danger" to the public.
This past week a panel of commissioners voted to grant parole to William Bradford, who was convicted of murdering his former wife in 1988 by pumping hollow-point bullets into her body. Why? Because the panel said there was no evidence he would pose a threat to the public.
This was an extraordinary conclusion - and not just because of the cold-blooded nature of his crime. Bradford's own daughter, Shaun Rickerl, begged the board not to release her father. She said she continues to be terrified of him.
Veteran prosecutor, Deputy District Attorney John Lewin, asked the board to deny Bradford parole. The reason: Not only did Lewin prosecute the case, but after Bradford was convicted, it was discovered that Bradford was plotting to murder Lewin and his family.
"This is the one guy that scares me," Lewin told the Los Angeles Times. "How dare [the parole board] play Russian roulette with my family."

Meet Some Prop 57 Early Release Inmates

Michele Hanisee has this post for the Los Angeles Association of Deputy District Attorneys, with the above title and the subtitle "(Hopefully not on a street corner)."  After describing four cases, she notes:

Governor Brown promised the public that only non-violent offenders would be released under Prop 57.  A bank robber/hostage taker, a gun-toting felon who threatened to kill his mother, a knife-wielding felon who threatened to kill his girlfriend, and a dog killer are probably not who the public expected back into their communities.   But the public need not fret.  After all, the Board of Parole has determined that none of them pose "an unreasonable risk of violence to the community."

Proposition 57 Implementation

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Last Friday, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation held a public comment hearing on its regulations to implement Proposition 57.  This initiative, approved on last November's ballot, authorizes parole for many felons sentenced to what were previously determinate terms.  It was backed by big bucks from George Soros et al., and the opposition had pitifully little funding to tell the people what it will really do.

Tracey Kaplan and Robert Salonga of the Bay Area News Group have this article on the controversy.

I did not attend the hearing because these events are just for show.  I mailed in comments for CJLF, for all the good they will do.  As bad as Proposition 57 is on its face, CDCR is determined to make it worse.
The Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs has this post, providing further detail on a murder noted in last Friday's News Scan:

Prior to AB 109, a no bail warrant for a violation of parole would have been issued for Littlecloud and served upon him following his December 2016 arrest. He would have remained in custody while awaiting both resolution of his new criminal cases and a parole revocation hearing that, based on his continued criminality, would have resulted in a one-year return to state prison. Most importantly, he would not have been on the streets in August, 2017 and able to murder Deputy French.
Update:  CJLF President Michael Rushford will be on KFI with John & Ken at 5:00 p.m. PDT today to discuss this issue.  That's 640 kHz on AM if you are in the Los Angeles area or stream here.

California Proposition Returns

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Initial California returns on the ballot propositions look good on the death penalty.  With 10.7% of precincts reporting, repeal Proposition 62 is failing 44.4% to 55.6% while "fix it" Proposition 66 is winning 52.3% to 47.7%.  However, early returns are not always representative of the final result, so it's too soon to celebrate.

Meanwhile, Gov. Brown's Jailbreak Initiative is clearly winning.  The underfunded opposition was evidently unable to inform the people just how bad this ill-conceived measure is.

Update 9:50 PST:  With 21.7% reporting, the results are little changed.

Update 11:05 PST:  With 38.4% reporting --  62 Yes 45.3% to No 54.7% -- 66 Yes 51.5% to No 48.5%

Update Midnight PST:  With slightly over half the vote counted, Proposition 62 remains steadily 9% behind, and I think we can confidently say that the people of California have rejected the repeal and reaffirmed their support for the death penalty yet again.

Proposition 66 remains 3% ahead and is very likely to be the law tomorrow.  It has been many years in the making.


A Prop. 66 Landslide?

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The Institute for Social Research at Sacramento State U. has this poll of 622 likely California voters surveyed October 7-13.

Proposition 66 would aim to speed up the death penalty court process in California. For example, it would require the superior court to review initial petitions, increase the number of available attorneys to accept those appeals, and allow condemned inmates to be housed at any state prison.

Do you plan to vote 'YES' to change these death penalty court procedures, or 'NO' to make no changes to existing procedures?

51%      Yes (1)
20         No (2)
29         Undecided/Don't Know (8)

Stockton Record Gets It Right

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Those of us who fight for justice in the worst murder cases have become accustomed to having the press almost entirely on the side of the murderers. I was pleasantly surprised this Sunday morning to read this in the Stockton Record:

Our editorial board was divided on these death penalty propositions. Our consensus is a no vote on Proposition 62 and yes on 66. We do not feel the death penalty should be abolished with so many on death row (whose sentences would be converted to life in prison). We do, however, concur that the process for legal challenges should not be so drawn out.
The Record also endorsed a "no" vote on Proposition 57, a trifecta of good sense in the criminal justice arena.

A Tragic and Ominous Story

We are often told, by law professors among others, that community release with close monitoring is more humane than incarceration, less expensive, and equally effective.

It's simply false.  The question is not whether it can be counted upon to work.   The question is who pays the price when it doesn't.

This story gives us a glimpse of a thoroughly unfunny answer.  

Preventable violent crime against women, or against anyone, is a blight.  Q:  Where is the outrage over this, and who is going to take responsibility?  A:  Nowhere and no one.  And we all know it.

For a generation, we have known how to cut back on violent crime.  If we forget now, those least able to fight back will be the first to pay the price  --  although sooner or later, we all will.

We Abolished Parole for a Reason

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I was happy to have the opportunity a couple of days ago to speak at the Washington Post's Criminal Justice Summit.  The Post's editorial policies are worse than dubious, but its crime reporting is among the best in the country, led by the brilliant Tom Jackman, the moderator of my panel.

Today the Post carries a story about child cruelty and murder so horrible I feel as if I must warn readers that you need a strong stomach to get to the end.  For now, I will just say two things  First, the story shows why never permitting a jury to consider the death penalty is not merely foolish but morally grotesque.  Second, it shows why early release  --  which used to go by the name parole, before being abolished (in federal law) in the Eighties  -- should seldom if ever be given.

It's not that there are no instances in which it is warranted.  It's that the system cannot reliably distinguish the warranted from the unwarranted, and the costs of this inevitable error should be borne by felons, not by toddlers.
In a news release yesterday the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) announced that the recidivism rate for offenders released from state prison has declined steadily over the past five years and is now down to 44.6%.  Responding to these numbers CDCR Secretary Scott Kernan said, "The latest recidivism rate shows that we're helping more inmates learn how to live a law-abiding, productive life."  This statement is easily worthy of ten Pinocchios.  As the report notes the CDCR bases recidivism rates on how many criminals return to state prison for a new felony conviction or a parole violation within three years of their release.  Secretary Kernan must assume that everybody forgot that five years ago his boss (the Governor) signed AB109 (aka Public Safety Realignment)  into law.  Realignment prohibits prison sentences for virtually all property felonies, parole violations and even crimes like assault.  The most severe sentence a car thief, commercial burglar, or wife beater can receive under Realignment is time in county jail, and guess what?  As the state's inmate population had gone down, county jails have been filled to overflowing forcing the early release of thousands of habitual felons every week.  It may also be news to Secretary Kernan that crime has increased virtually everywhere in California, and not just property crimes.  FBI numbers released in January showed an increase in violent crime of 12.9% in the state's 67 largest cities last year.  A more recent report released by California Police Chiefs found that last year violent crime increased by 15.4% in cities with populations of less than 100,000.   
California Gov. Jerry Brown is doing violence to the parole system, says John Phillips of the OC Register.

Did you know that assault with a deadly weapon isn't a violent crime? How about injuring a police officer? Brutal child abuse or elder abuse? Or even killing someone?

If California Gov. Jerry Brown gets his way, I guess we will have to redefine the word "violent" in the dictionary, because thousands of people convicted of those crimes, which he calls "nonviolent," will be eligible for parole.

Brown is selling an initiative, which will likely be appearing on your November ballot, as a smart way of reducing the state's prison population by granting early release to these allegedly "nonviolent" offenders.

CJLF analyzed the initiative's verbiage, after which we estimated that, if passed, about 42,000 "nonviolent" inmates would become eligible for release.

Brown is once again "putting politics ahead of public safety" and "purposely pulling a bait-and-switch on voters to trick us into supporting something that will wreck" any remaining semblance of public safety that the state still has.  Let's hope the majority don't fall for it.

Last winter, California Governor Jerry Brown wanted to put on the ballot a new initiative to facilitate large-scale releases of felons from prison.  He had a problem, though, in that it was too late in the initiative cycle to begin an initiative from scratch and get it on the November 2016 ballot.

Gov. Brown's solution was to strike a deal with proponents of an unrelated juvenile justice initiative that had already gone through the early stages of the process.  Can he do that?  The bill allowing amendment of pending initiatives is only two years old, and there are unanswered questions.  Today the California Supreme Court answered one of the questions and cleared the way for the Jailbreak Initiative to be put on the ballot this fall.

The statute at issue, California Elections Code ยง 9002(b), requires that the amendments be "reasonably germane" to the original measure.  Does that phrase stretch far enough to take an initiative that is entirely about juvenile justice and graft on a measure that largely dismantles the determinate sentencing reforms of 40 years ago, which apply only to convictions in adult court?

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