Politics

Thousands of ex-cons back on street after cutbacks

Friday, June 08, 2012

It's been six months since Gov. Jerry Brown's plan went into effect, making big changes to the state's criminal justice system. Now, critics are alarmed at what the state's own numbers are showing about parolees.

After serving their state prison sentence, felons are typically put on parole where authorities keep tabs on them for a certain period of time, but after Brown shortened a parolee's review from every year to every six months, records show a six-fold jump in the number no longer on supervision. In March, more than 1,300 were discharged from parole. In April, as the first wave of parolees became available for review, more than 8,500 were released.

"There's nothing in the law that takes anyone mandatorily off parole after six months. It just means there's a review and if people can function without that supervision, they don't need to be retained anymore," explained Jeffrey Callison with the California Department of Corrections.

Clearly, it was a budgetary move to save money as the state has been grappling with multibillion-dollar deficits for years now, but the shift worries crime victims groups that say six months isn't enough time to determine whether someone has straightened out. "It worries us terribly that these folks are going to re-offend and definitely hurt somebody," said Christine Ward with the Crime Victims Action Alliance.

Some parolees suddenly found themselves cut off in April, in the middle of rehab and other services that help them transition to society, because their agents discharged them. No parole and no more state programs. The Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic says about 75 people abruptly left rehab. They either stopped going or couldn't afford to go. Re-entry experts say the lack of services opens the door to going back to a criminal lifestyle.

"They resort back to what they know best, which in many cases, is substance abuse or criminality as a result of going back to their old neighborhood," said Demetrius Andreas at the Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic.

The state says this uptick is only temporary. The numbers should level off as the number of inmates decrease.

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Tags:
california budget crisis, budget cuts, inmates, jerry brown, politics, nannette miranda
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