Early Release Places All At Risk

Friday, April 9, 2010

Chelsea King now joins Polly Klass, Bill Reagan and thousands of other Californians who have been and will be the victims of ill founded, short sighted sentencing and parole policies. Decisions of governors, legislators, ivory tower criminal justice intellectuals and particularly the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) are major factors in criminality.

The 1977 Determinant Sentence Law gave us Richard Davis who raped and murdered Polly Klass in 1993. In 1992 Senate Bill 92, a parole reform bill, gave us a rash of victimization that included the murder of Bill Reagan on the streets of Sacramento. Current policies give us Chelsea King.

History repeats! Contemporary experts and CDCR leaders pronounce their bright ideas "good for public safety," then run for cover and cover-up while legislators who voted for these policies are  "born again" crime fighters when the predictable victimization occurs.

Albert Gardner, now charged with the murder of Chelsea King is but the most recent egregious example of dangerous parole policies. In 2000, Gardner was convicted of two counts of Lewd and Lascivious Acts with a Child Under 14 and for one count of false imprisonment. He was given sentencing and parole leniency as he violated parole seven times including behavior that is the most predictive of future victimization by a sex offender, including living near a school and marijuana possession.

For six of his violations he was not referred to the Board of Parole Hearings (BPH or Parole Board) as required by the Robin Reagan Regulation. As Chairman of the Board of Prison Terms in 1994, I wrote this regulation to stop such dangerous, repetitious and escalating criminality. The one time he was referred to the board, he got in parole-speak "love"- no consequence-continue on parole." 

Before release from prison he was not screened for Mentally Disordered Offender (MDO) or Sexually Violent Predator (SVP) civil commitments, either of which, if he qualified, would have kept him in prison. Neither was he ordered for MDO or SVP evaluation when he was before the Parole Board. Lost opportunities!

As Parole Board Chairman, I worked with law enforcement and the legislature to create safety nets to ensure sex predators and career criminals would not be free to victimize. These included the Reagan Regulation, a zero tolerance gang regulation and the Sexually Violent Predator Law. But nets are of no value if not used.

Historically CDCR has been far more concerned with prison population and taking away the authority of the Parole Board as "gate keeper" for life inmates and parolees than for preserving public safety.     

I worked with crime victims and law enforcement to write Marsey's Law, which was passed by voters in 2008. In part, it requires sentences "shall not be substantially diminished by early release polices intended to alleviate prison overcrowding."

In 2009, a majority of the legislature supported SBx3 18, which did just that! It provided for additional "good time" credits (above the 50% inmates already get). It allowed "non revocable parole" which simply shifts the burden of continued victimization from the state to local government and which mostly means continued criminality will result in NO consequences.

Many other policies of CDCR and the BPH are placing you and your families at risk.

I have asked the governor to order the following immediate actions by CDCR that will ensure the most predictably dangerous will not be released into our communities.

1. Strict compliance with the Parole Board's "Robin Reagan Regulation" that requires any parole violation behavior of a serious and or violent parolee to be reported to the Parole Board.
2. Strict compliance with the Parole Board's "zero tolerance" gang regulation that includes any criminal validated by CDCR, Department of Justice, or by any local law enforcement authority as a gang member.
3. Strict screening of any inmate or parolee that may qualify for SVP or MDO commitments.
4. A restriction on the class of parolees subject to non revocable parole, or better, a repeal or sunset of this ill-conceived law.
5. Public safety and justice be the number one consideration in sentencing and parole policies of California.
6. Independence of the Board of Parole Hearings.
7. Pre-2010 "good time" credits must be earned and no extra credits granted.

There are other ways to provide rehabilitation and diminish recidivism. Some actions can be quickly implemented, others take time - some even a generation.

Today, Californians are at risk and it's time for action.