California News

Non-violent parole violators are off the hook?

Monday, November 12, 2012

A plan to save California some much-needed cash is sparking outrage from victims' rights activists. It calls on Corrections officials to consider dropping arrest warrants for thousands of parole violators.

This week, the California Department of Corrections will begin reviewing the files of more than 9,000 parole violators who have outstanding warrants for their arrests.

Typically when inmates are released from state prison, they're required to report to a parole officer for a few years. When they don't check in or disappear, an arrest warrant is issued.

It's too early to tell, but the review could lead to thousands of non-violent offenders having their warrants dropped and consequently released from state supervision.

On the surface, the move is being applauded by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

"California still lives on a fiscal cliff, and these are dollars that can be better spent on education or social services. We've got to get smart on crime and focus on cost-effective proposals that will continue to keep our society safe," said Kimberly Horiuchi, an ACLU criminal justice and drug policy advocate.

The process is expected to take eight months, weeding out cases that are years old or deleting parolees no one's looking for.

Convicted sex offenders would not be eligible to have their warrants removed.

The purge is in response to a handover next July, when county courts will take over parole revocation cases. This is an opportunity to reduce the local caseloads and focus on those who do pose a threat to society.

Crime victims groups are livid. They say there's no such thing as a non-violent state parolee.

"'Not violent' in California is a very narrow category," said Nina Salarno Ashford, a Crime Victims United board member. "So we need to understand even domestic violence, voluntary manslaughter, child abuse, elder abuse does not qualify as violent."

Critics also point out eliminating the warrants takes away an important law enforcement tool that allows officers to search parolees at any time.

Once this review is complete, Corrections may look at the outstanding warrants against parolees who have committed serious and violent crimes.

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