By MICHAEL RAMOS, San Bernardino County District Attorney
For the past two years, I have been meeting with the governor and his staff regarding early release of prisoners and the elimination of parole for all offenders who have not committed serious or violent crimes.
Published: January 30, 2009
I am very concerned about the current budget proposal, which would eliminate parole supervision. Parole is an essential law enforcement tool that enables peace officers to search parolees and their vehicles and residences. Parole searches have saved innocent lives and prevented countless violent crimes. To unilaterally eliminate parole for thousands of prison inmates would constitute a public safety disaster.
I suggested to the governor’s office and state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation an alternative program that would still allow search and drug terms to be applied to unsupervised released felons when appropriate.
Don’t get me wrong. I believe in rehabilitation when the proper, scientifically-based programs are in place. That is currently not the case. The re-entry concept with proper re-socialization skills and training in basic job skills is a great idea, but that’s all it is now.
My job is to protect our citizens and seek justice for victims. The release of prisoners with no parole would make that job much more difficult.
Since the state wants to dump this problem on communities, I ask that we at least be given the tools to keep our citizens free from more crime and violence.
A second matter of concern involves changes to inmate credit calculations. This provision would allow up to four months of additional credit for each rehabilitative program an inmate completes. The plan does not define the content or duration of these programs or limit an inmate’s participation in them.
I am adamantly opposed to any scheme that vests the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation with unfettered authority to release state prison inmates merely by deciding that they have completed unspecified “programs.”
The “four months credit” programs would so reduce the sentences for “low-end” property and narcotics offenders that many would actually serve less time than those sentenced to probation and county jail.
When criminals did the arithmetic, they would refuse probation, a right they have, and instead accept prison sentences.
Getting soft on crime isn’t the answer to the budget problem.