Gov. Brown Has OK’d Releasing More ‘Lifers’ From Prison Than Predecessors
Wednesday, March 19, 2014
Aired 3/19/14 on KPBS Midday Edition.
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.
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