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Gov. Brown Has OK’d Releasing More ‘Lifers’ From Prison Than Predecessors

Evening Edition

Aired 3/19/14 on KPBS Midday Edition.

GUESTS:

Justin Brooks, California Western School of Law, California Innocence Project

Marc Klaas, Victims' Rights Advocate, KlaasKids Foundation

Nearly 1,400 prisoners who had been sentenced to life with the possibility of parole have been released in the past three years under Gov. Jerry Brown. It’s a considerable increase compared to the past three governors.

Prisons in California are still overcrowded, however, explains California Western School of Law Professor Justin Brooks.

“What the court has ordered is that we have to reduce to the level of 137 percent of capacity. So what the state is being ordered to do is just to reduce it to it still being overcrowded by 37 percent,” Brooks said.

Last month, a report by the Associated Press examined the issue:

Since taking office three years ago, Gov. Jerry Brown has affirmed 82 percent of parole board decisions, resulting in a record number of inmates with life sentences going free.

Brown's predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, authorized the release of 557 lifers during his six-year term, sustaining the board at a 27 percent clip. Before that, Gov. Gray Davis over three years approved the release of two.

As the AP article points out, Brown's approvals take place amid pressure from the federal court to reduce prison overcrowding in California. Although, the governor's office said this "plays no role in the parole decisions."

Activists have voiced opposition to the releases, citing a threat to the public and a sense of injustice to crime victims and their families.

"This is playing Russian roulette with public safety," said Christine Ward, executive director of the Crime Victims Action Alliance, to the AP. "This is a change of philosophy that can be dangerous."

According to the AP, more than 80 percent of lifers are in prison for murder, while the remaining mostly are rapists and kidnappers.

Comments

Avatar for user 'RLA'

RLA | March 19, 2014 at 1:06 p.m. ― 6 months ago

It looks like Gov. Moonbeam is trying to make the state match the model city he left after his tenure in Oakland. High crime, lots of gangs, racial tension - you know, model California after prison society.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | March 19, 2014 at 1:47 p.m. ― 6 months ago

RLA, the U.S. imprisons too many people already, more than any other nation on earth both in raw numbers and per-capita.

This silly notion that not imprisoning so many people will cause crime rates to rise is simply not bore out in the facts.

Countries that imprison a fraction of the people we do have lower violent crime rates.

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