Violent felons given unsupervised parole
May 27, 2011
Prison officials allowed 450 violent convicts to be placed on unsupervised parole last year prompted a sharp exchange between the department of corrections and the inspector general’s office, according to a California audit. [CaliforniaWatch]
A report released Wednesday by Inspector General Bruce Monfross blamed the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation for improperly evaluating 1,500 inmates using an automated risk-assessment program developed by researchers at UC Irvine. The inmates included 450 dangerous criminals who were mistakenly place on unsupervised – or non-revocable – parole, California Watch said.
The program to allow some parolees to forgo supervision by a state agent was created in 2009 as part of a broader effort to reduce the number of low-level offenders being returned to prison for technical violations as a cost saving measure.
Corrections officials, who are required to conduct more than 270,000 assessments each week, rely on computers rather than humans to determine safety risks posed by inmates and parolees. However, an investigation by the inspector general determined the department’s electronic assessments were wrong for 23.5 percent of the nearly 10,000 inmates considered for unsupervised parole during a six-month period last year.
“It is therefore probable that some of the discharged parolees inappropriately placed on non-revocable parole would have violated their parole conditions and returned to prison, had they been on supervised parole,” the report states.
Department of corrections officials strongly rebuked the findings.
“Our concern with this report goes beyond its relevancy; in fact we must also take issue with its facts and central conclusion,” wrote Lee Seale, deputy chief of staff to corrections Secretary Matthew Cate, in a letter released Wednesday.
Seale said the release of the report was “unfortunate.” He complained the report relied on “obsolete” data, brushed aside improvements to the program and ignored other reforms carried out by the department – such as re-entry courts for parolees and updates to sentencing laws – that have “helped to successfully reduce the crowding rate in our prisons to the same level seen two decades ago.”
Seale defended the department’s cost saving use of computers to determine the risk posed by inmates by scanning the rap sheets of “more than 160,000 inmates in our prisons and more than 100,000 offenders on parole.”
In response, Monfross told California Watch that while he appreciated the department’s “desire” to save money, it “should not compromise public safety in doing so, as it does by understating offenders’ risk of re-offending and releasing high-risk offenders to unsupervised parole.”