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September 2, 2009

Garrido case leading to useful reflections and questions about sentencing practices

Often, one high-profile ugly crime by a repeated offender leads to an extreme reaction to an outlier case. This my be part of the story that follows the discovery of the remarkable crimes of the Garrido family, but we should not overlook the appropriate reflections and hard questions being asked in this wake of the discovery of this remarkable crime. Specifically, consider this effective item from Chuck Lane in the Washington Post, which is headlined "How Jaycee Lee Dugard's Tormentor Got Out." It provides a reminder of how different sentencing practices were decades ago when Phillip Garrido was sentenced for his first rape:

Thirty-three years ago, the law specifically provided that no prisoner could serve more than 10 years in the federal system without at least a chance at parole -- regardless of his original sentence. Garrido’s conviction, which came in Feb., 1977, was his first. The judge who sentenced him to 50 years may have been trying to signal parole officials who would later look at his case that this was no ordinary novice offender....

But ten years later, when an examiner from the U.S. Parole Commission arrived to see Garrido at the federal prison in Lompoc, California, those ghastly events were known to him only from the cold paper record. Though Garrido’s parole proceeding is sealed, typically federal parole examiners would spend about an hour interviewing the inmate. They would also look into a prisoner’s adjustment to prison life, as reported by prison officials, his work record, if any, and evidence of new-found responsibility. Perhaps one point in Garrido’s favor was his marriage-by-mail to Nancy Bocanegra, whom he met while she was visiting a relative serving time with Garrido.

Relatedly, given that Garrido was a registered sex offender, folks are also starting to ask hard questions about the efficacy of sex offender registries.  Specifically, consider these new articles from the New York Times and USA Today:

September 2, 2009 in Sex Offender Sentencing | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Study suggests support for death penalty still strong despite innocence concerns

The title of this post is meant to be quite different from the headline of this new Los Angeles Times article, which is headlined "Californians' support for death penalty waning: A survey shows public support has dropped from 79% to 66%, as fears of executing the wrongly convicted escalate."  Here is more from the article:

A majority of Californians still favor the death penalty, but their support has waned from 79% to 66% over the last two decades as fears of executing the wrongly convicted escalate, a researcher reported Tuesday. The survey conducted by Craig Haney, a UC Santa Cruz psychology professor and lawyer, also showed that most Californians erroneously believe that it costs taxpayers less to execute condemned prisoners than to keep them locked up for life....

"My sense is that the whole issue of the death penalty is much more unsettled now than it has been in the past 20 or so years," said Haney, citing growing public discomfort with incidents in which innocent prisoners have been spared at the last minute -- or not at all....

Those who advocate retaining the death penalty argue that support for capital punishment has been stable in recent years, that only the interpretation of survey data is changing. "There hasn't been any major falloff," said Kent Scheidegger, legal director for the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, which takes a conservative stance on penal issues. "If you look at the polls and analyze them properly you'll see that over the past 10 years support has been remarkably steady," he said.

Haney's findings were consistent with those of last month's Field Poll of the California electorate, in which 67% of respondents expressed support for the death penalty.

The professor queried 800 jury-eligible Californians in February and March for his survey.  It was funded by the National Jury Project and carried out by the Survey Research Center at the University of Virginia, with a 3.5% margin of error.

Asked if he had a personal opinion about the death penalty, Haney said his 30 years of work in the field had led him to the conclusion that capital punishment "is unnecessary and cannot be properly, fairly or effectively implemented."

I share Haney's sense that the issue of the death penalty is "unsettled," but I think that reality is mostly a function of the work of courts and effective abolitionists, not the result of significant shifts in public opinion.  As pollsters could report, any politician would be grateful to have a 66% approval rating.  As long as public approval for the death penalty remains this high even in a "blue" state like California, it seems unlikely that the public will be clamoring for significant changes to the modern death penalty in the US anytime soon.  Courts and political elites, however, may have a very different view and may be able to engineer capital punishment reforms even without broad public support.

September 2, 2009 in Death Penalty Reforms | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

September 1, 2009

New poll has majority saying alcohol is more dangerous than marijuana

Marijuana-Is-SAFER-book-cover This new report from Rasmussen, which is headlined "51% Rate Alcohol More Dangerous Than Marijuana," should give yet another boost toward efforts to legalize the (no-longer-?) wicked weed. Here are the basics:

Fifty-one percent (51%) of American adults say alcohol is more dangerous than marijuana, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Just 19% disagree and say pot is worse. But 25% say both are equally dangerous. Just two percent (2%) say neither is dangerous.

Younger adults are more likely than their elders to view alcohol as the more dangerous of the two.

Fifty-three percent (53%) of women say alcohol is more dangerous than marijuana, compared to 48% of men. Men by a two-to-one margin over women say pot is riskier, but women are more inclined to say both are dangerous.

Unmarried adults are more critical of alcohol than those who are married. Those with children at home think alcohol is more dangerous than those without kids living with them.

Perhaps the main message of this new book (pictured in this post), titled "Marijuana is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?," which has been recommended to me by many thoughtful folks has already gotten through to a majority of Americans.  Whether this message will lead to significant legal and sentencing reform, however, remains to be seen.

Some recent related posts:

September 1, 2009 in Drug Offense Sentencing | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

"Moral Sentiments and the Justification of Punishment"

The title of this post is the title of this interesting-looking new piece from Thom Brooks recently posted on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

What is the relationship between our moral sentiments and the justification of punishment? One position is that our moral sentiments provide for punishment’s justification.  My focus will be on Adam Smith’s theory of punishment and the role that moral sentiments play in this theory.  First, I will argue that interpreters are mistaken to view Smith’s position as essentially retributivist.  In fact, he defends a unified theory where punishment serves retributivist, deterrent, and rehabilitative goals.  Secondly, I will argue that his view that punishment is warranted in cases where we should feel resentment fails to account for much of what we would want included in our criminal law.  I conclude that while Smith’s account is problematic, it nevertheless may point us toward a more moderate position. Moral sentiments may be relevant to criminal law, although they should not serve as the sole determinant of what should be criminalized and how crimes should be punished.

September 1, 2009 in Purposes of Punishment and Sentencing | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Reactions to the NC ruling in Britt felon gun rights case

This new local article, headlined "Felon wins the right to own a gun: Narrow ruling causes big stir," reports on reactions to the North Carolina Supreme Court's ruling in Britt v. State, No. 488A07 (NC Aug. 28, 2009) (available here), that at least North Carolina felons have a state constitutional right to bear arms under the North Carolina Constitution (discussed here). Here are excerpts:

The opinion applied only to Barney Britt, who was convicted of a drug crime in 1979, and it didn't have an immediate effect on the thousands of other felons in the state. Criminal defense lawyers who practice in federal courts said they don't know what effect, if any, the opinion will have on federal rules, which prevent felons from buying and owning weapons except when a state has restored that right....

Though the opinion focused just on Britt's case, both sides of the gun control issue saw the ruling as significant because the state's highest court found that Britt had a right to bear arms that trumped the state's ability to restrict him from owning any weapons.

Advocates spent Monday poring over the 5-2 decision in Britt v. State of North Carolina. The decision was seen as a victory for those who view government restrictions as too strict, while those in favor of tighter gun control described it as an alarming blow. "This has implications beyond just North Carolina," said Robert Levy of the Cato Institute, a Washington-based Libertarian think tank that opposes gun control. "North Carolina has now decided that some felonies are not so serious to result in deprivations of the right to defend oneself."

Roxane Kolar, director of North Carolinians against Gun Violence, said the decision was troubling. "I've never heard of this before, of a felon having an inalienable right to own a weapon," she said. "It's putting a lot of our state gun laws at risk."

The decision could spark a rush to local courthouses as felons try to have their rights to own and store firearms in their homes restored. Those with the best chance would likely be those with cases similar to Britt's; people convicted of nonviolent crimes who had their right to own a gun restored and then taken away with a 2004 law, said Jeanette Doran, a senior staff attorney with the N.C. Institute for Constitutional Law.

Legal e-mail message boards lit up over the weekend, with lawyers swapping tales of clients convicted of felony littering charges then barred from hunting deer for the rest of their lives.

The state legislature may address the issue with a bill introduced for the 2009-2010 session by Rep. Phil Haire, a Democrat from Western North Carolina, that would give limited hunting privileges to nonviolent felons....

The office of N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper, who defended the state law in the case, declined to comment on the ruling....

Kolar of North Carolinians against Gun Violence expressed concern that judges would be the ones to decide whether felons could own guns, something she says gives too much discretion to the courts. Jim Woodall, the district attorney for Orange and Chatham counties, said he found the opinion worrisome and hoped it wouldn't be applied broadly to others. "They're carving out a one-person exemption," he said.

September 1, 2009 in Second Amendment issues | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack

How will death penalty proponents respond to "Trial by Fire"?

I have now read this potent and must-read article, headlined "Trial by Fire: Did Texas execute an innocent man?", in this week's New Yorkerconcerning the Cameron Todd Willingham case.  In the article, David Grann effectively reviews all the reasons to suspect and fear that Texas executed an innocent man in 2004.  It is certain that death penalty opponents will respond to the piece by asserting this case now proves that a wrongful execution is a real possibility and that the death penalty should therefore be completely abolished.  But what is not certain is how death penalty proponents in Texas and elsewhere will respond to the piece.

One easy response for death penalty proponents is simply to assert and maintain that Willingham was in fact guilty, notwithstanding the evidence suggesting otherwise.  The New Yorker article reveals that a number of folks involved in the case's prosecution have already adopted this approach.  But, given the potent evidence now suggesting Willingham was wrongly convicted and executed and the weak evidence that supporting his guilt, I am not sure all responsible death penalty proponents will feel comfortable adopting this response.

The alternative, of course, is to admit the possibility that Texas executed an innocent man, but that this obvious tragedy does not alone justify getting rid of a punishment that is thought just for the truly guilty and may save many more innocent lives through its deterrent force.  This alternative seems to me to be the more "honest" response to the Willingham case, but it is also necessarily more controversial.

Notably, I am yet to see any discussion of the Willingham case on either Crime and Consequences or Pro-Death Penalty.com.

Related post:

September 1, 2009 in Death Penalty Reforms | Permalink | Comments (27) | TrackBack

The latest prison and sentencing reform news from California

As detailed in this local article, headlined "California Assembly passes prison-cut plan less sweeping than Senate's," the drama surrounding prison and sentencing reform in California continues apace. Here are some of the details of the latest news:

The California Assembly narrowly passed legislation Monday to alter the state's parole system and cut hundreds of millions from prison spending this year, but the plan may be doomed.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg has vowed to withhold concurrence until the Assembly acts on even deeper cuts and systemic changes. "The Assembly took a good first step today but it's not a complete package," Steinberg said in a written statement.

Assembly Speaker Karen Bass said she is confident that negotiations in coming days will produce legislation to end the impasse. The Assembly vote, 41-35, came more than a week after the Senate passed a plan that would cut prison spending by about $220 million more than that approved Monday by the lower house.

Both the Assembly and the Senate proposals are designed to reduce caseloads of parole officers from 70-to-1 to 45-to-1, partly by easing supervision of lower-risk offenders who have not committed violent or sexual offenses. Both prison plans also would allow prison inmates to earn up to an additional six weeks in sentencing credits by completing education, vocation or rehabilitation programs in prison.

Under both plans, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger would turn over up to 8,500 noncitizen felons to federal authorities for deportation, and some felony probation violators would be housed in county jails or local treatment programs rather than in prisons. Each legislative house vows that its plan would increase public safety by focusing supervision on the most serious offenders.

Republicans oppose both the Assembly and Senate budget-cutting plans, saying that few felons truly are "low risk" and that easing their incarceration or supervision could endanger public safety. "I don't want a state-sanctioned jailbreak in my backyard," said Assemblyman Joel Anderson, R-Alpine. "This is not a bill about being soft on crime," countered Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, D-Santa Monica. "This is a bill about being smart on crime."

The Senate plan, unlike the Assembly version, calls for creation of an appointed commission to overhaul sentencing guidelines.

Some recent related posts:

September 1, 2009 in Scope of Imprisonment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 31, 2009

If you ever wondered what might happen if you sold balg eagle feathers...

this new Justice Department official press release, titled "Arizona Man Sentenced for Selling Bald Eagle Feathers," provides an answer:

Cedric E. Salabye of Dilkon, Ariz., was sentenced Friday in federal court in Phoenix for selling 11 bald eagle tail feathers, the Justice Department announced today.  Salabye pleaded guilty on April 23, 2009, to one count of a federal indictment charging him with selling eagle feathers in violation of the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.  Judge David G. Campbell of the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona sentenced Salabye to five years of probation, six months of home confinement and 150 hours of community service.

At the time Salabye committed the violation in 2006, the bald eagle was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.  The bald eagle was removed from protection under the federal Endangered Species Act in 2007.  However, two other federal laws still provide protection for the bald eagle — the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Eagles and other protected migratory birds are viewed as sacred in many Native American cultures and the feathers of the birds are central to religious and spiritual Native American customs.  By law, enrolled members of federally recognized Native American tribes are entitled to obtain permits to possess eagle parts for religious purposes, but federal law strictly prohibits the sale of bald and golden eagles or their feathers and parts under any circumstance.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service operates the National Eagle Repository, which collects eagles that die naturally, by accident or other means, to supply enrolled members of federally recognized tribes with eagle parts for religious use.

"The buying and selling of the feathers of bald eagles, our nation’s symbol, is illegal and those who choose to ignore those laws will be prosecuted," said John C. Cruden, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.

August 31, 2009 in Offense Characteristics | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

"Links to Sex Crimes to Follow Texas Suspects"

The title of this post is the headline of this interesting article in today's Wall Street Journal.  Here is how it begins:

Desirée Wood gave up hope that the man who raped her 20 years ago in Dallas would ever be caught and sentenced for the crime. Now, she says, she has reason to believe her attacker might see some form of justice, after all.

On Tuesday, a law takes effect in Texas that lets prosecutors and parole boards for the first time see DNA evidence that links a suspect to an old sexual assault, even though the statute of limitations has expired on the case and the suspect was never tried. Previously, there would be no record linking the suspect to the old crime.

Supporters of the law, the first of its kind in the country, hope it means that suspects in those old cases will face more-vigorous prosecutions and sterner parole boards should they find themselves in trouble with the law again. Opponents say the law could rob suspects of due-process rights.

And here is how the piece articulates the due process concerns with this new Texas law being articulated by others:

The law has its critics. The American Civil Liberties Union is concerned that it could punish suspects without the benefit of due process.  After objections from the ACLU, the proposed law was revised to allow only law-enforcement agencies to access DNA information linking someone to an old sexual assault.  The law also allows suspects to petition for removal of the information from their files if they believe it has been wrongly included.

The ACLU still has concerns about how the information could be used.  "This is something we will definitely be monitoring to make sure there aren't negative unintended consequences," said Rebecca Bernhardt, policy director of the Texas ACLU.

August 31, 2009 in Procedure and Proof at Sentencing, Sex Offender Sentencing | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Will new evidence of Texas executing an innocent man alter modern death penalty debates?

As detailed in this new New York Times editorial, headlined "Questions About an Execution," more folks are coming to the view that Texas executed an innocent man in 2004.  The editorial provides the basic facts and notes the standard abolitionist "innocence" argument that now seems stronger:

People should have no illusions about the brutal injustice of the death penalty after all of the exonerations in recent years from DNA evidence, but the case of Cameron Todd Willingham is still shocking.

Mr. Willingham was executed for setting a fire that killed his 2-year-old daughter and 1-year-old twins, but a fire expert hired by the State of Texas has issued a report casting enormous doubt on whether the fire was arson at all. The Willingham investigation, which is continuing, is further evidence that the criminal justice system is far too flawed to justify imposing a death penalty.

After the fire, investigators decided, based in large part on burn patterns on the house’s floors, that it was intentionally set. Prosecutors charged Mr. Willingham, who escaped from the burning home, with capital murder. Mr. Willingham protested his innocence until the day the state killed him by lethal injection in 2004.

The following year, Texas created the Forensic Science Commission to investigate charges of scientific mistakes or misconduct, and the panel began looking into the Willingham case. It commissioned Craig Beyler, a nationally recognized fire expert, to examine evidence....

The report concluded that a “finding of arson could not be sustained.” The Forensic Science Commission is now asking the state fire marshal’s office for its response. It anticipates issuing a final report next year.

The commission is to be commended for conducting this inquiry, but it is outrageous that Texas is conducting its careful, highly skilled investigation after Mr. Willingham has been executed, rather than before.

And, this week's New Yorker has a this long detailed article on the Willingham case in which David Grann documents all the reasons why it should now be a lot easier for opponents of the death penalty to assert that at least one innocent person has been executed in the modern capital punishment era.

With nearly 1200 execution over the last three decades, I have long consider the claim that only guilty persons have been executed harder to believe than the claim that at least one innocent person has been wrongfully put to death.  But now it seems that abolitionists have a name and a face to associate with the sensible statistical assertion that even a careful death penalty system is bound to sometimes execute an innocent man.  Of course, even acknowledging Willingham's innocence, proponents of the death penalty can still assert that it seems we still get it right more than 99.9% of the time.  But will that be good enough as the modern death penalty debate goes forward?

August 31, 2009 in Death Penalty Reforms | Permalink | Comments (27) | TrackBack

Lots of notable new and timely Findlaw commentaries

The folks at Findlaw do a great job in its Writ section getting top academics to do timely commentaries on legal issues of current debate and interest.  Here are some commentaries from the last few weeks that ought to interest sentencing fans:

August 31, 2009 in Recommended reading | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Sex offender driven to drink and drive by registration requirement

This little local story, headlined "Police: Pa. man drove drunk to Megan's Law meeting," is both funny and not-so-funny.  Here are the basics:

A convicted child sex offender has been charged with drunken driving because he allegedly showed up intoxicated when he registered under Megan's Law at a western Pennsylvania state police barracks.

State police in Greensburg say 37-year-old Jerry Cignetti, of Bradenville, showed up drunk on Friday.  Court records show he was convicted in Westmoreland County in 1998 for the indecent assault of a child under 13.  He was paroled but had to register as a sex offender once his sentence was completed.

The 1L Crim Law teacher in me is wondering if this might be the basis for an interesting (though surely losing) claim of necessity.

August 31, 2009 in Offense Characteristics | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Dueling persectives on proposed California prison reforms and a new challenge

As highlighted in the links below, the California editorial pages are buzzing over the state's on-going debate over prison and sentencing reforms.  And, as these two pieces reveal, California lawmakers will be criticized no matter what they do (or don't do):

Relatedly, this new piece in the New York Times, headlined "California Officials Fear Abduction Case May Hurt Efforts on Parole," highlights how a single high-profile case may alter the on-going debate.  Here is how the piece begins:

The case of Phillip Garrido, a parolee and registered sex offender accused of abducting an 11-year-old girl and holding her hostage for 18 years, has become embroiled in the debate over legislation intended to reduce California’s inmate population.

I sure hope a whole bunch of folks end up writing lots of articles and books about this chapter in state sentencing reform, since it captures so many of the dynamic modern challenges of sentencing law, policy, politics and practice.

August 31, 2009 in Scope of Imprisonment | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

August 30, 2009

Will NC's new Racial Justice Act effectively kill the state's death penalty?

This interesting local article from North Carolina, which is headlined "New death penalty law concerns Pitt attorney," prompts the question of this post.  The piece provides one local prosecutor's perspective on the likely impact of North Carolina's new Racial Justice Act, and here are excerpts from the start and end of the article:

Pitt County's chief prosecutor said an adopted law is an attempt to stop death penalty prosecutions without doing away with the punishment. The Racial Justice Act, signed into law Aug. 11 by Gov. Beverly Perdue, seeks to prevent death sentences “sought or obtained on the basis of race.” It allows defendants to introduce statistical evidence that shows race was a significant factor in the decision to seek or impose a death sentence.

Pitt County District Attorney Clark Everett lobbied against the legislation earlier this year. The state already has sufficient safeguards in place to prevent or remedy racially motivated death penalty prosecutions, he said.

While proving racial bias is placed on the defendant, Everett said prosecutors will have to develop evidence to refute the claim. It will become a battle of statisticians, one claiming bias and another saying none exists. “This should be titled the Statisticians Relief Act of 2009 because it is going to make a lot of them a lot of money,” Everett said. “It's going to be a battle of statisticians, and it's going to cost the state millions.”

The decision to pursue a death penalty prosecution isn't made lightly, Everett said. Prosecutors must have evidence to support claims that aggravating circumstances were present when a murder occurred. These circumstances and evidence are unique to each case and can't be made to fit statistical models. “The goal should be the punishment fits the crime, not some statistical predictions,” Everett said. “Murders aren't committed following a statistical model.”

The Racial Justice Act is an attempt to end the death penalty without voting to end the punishment, Everett said.  “They are killing it with a thousand cuts,” Everett said.  The General Assembly should hold a simple yes or no vote on whether the death penalty should be abolished in the state, he said....

Everett said the Racial Justice Act won't prevent him from pursuing a death penalty case if the evidence supports seeking that punishment but it adds another layer of bureaucracy to the decision-making process.  “It makes it difficult to explain to survivors the process and what punishment they can expect in the near future,” he said. “It adds another layer of litigation and costs, and that's something I have to consider.  It doesn't appear at this time we have a workable death penalty in this state,” Everett said....

No executions have been carried out in North Carolina since August 2006 when the N.C. Medical Board barred doctors from being present for lethal injections.  The state sued the medical board and in May the state Supreme Court ruled in the state's favor.  However, executions won't resume until North Carolina's Council of State reviews the state's protocols for execution.  The council's review is currently facing a legal challenge.  

As this excerpt reveals, this article is rich with insight and irony.  First, it appears that lethal injection challenges more than this new Racial Justice Act has the North Carolina death penalty struggling to stay legally relevant.  Thus, whatever the NC Racial Justice Act might mean practically, the efficacy of lethal injection litigation blocking executions right now explains why the 167 persons on the state's death row seem unlikely to face their imposed punishment anytime soon.

Second, this local article highlights all the interesting practical dynamics that surround a capital Racial Justice Act.  As the prosecutor notes, the Act is not going to prevent him from seeking a death sentence in a specific case, though he is going to "have to consider" how the Act presents "another layer of litigation and costs."  This may be the real virtue (or vice?) of this sort of Act: local prosecutors will be thinking twice about racial issues concerning offenders and victims impacting decisions to pursue the punishment of death.

Finally, as is true for all capital punishment reforms, this new Racial Justice Act is likely to result in lots of (unpredictable?) litigation.  In the end, how state courts interpret and apply the new Act will determine if it has a major or minor impact on the operation of the death penalty in North Carolina.

Some recent related posts:

August 30, 2009 in Death Penalty Reforms, Race, Class, and Gender | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Trickle-down realities of the prison economy in California

This local article from California, which is headlined "State prison cuts' effect on county jail feared," spotlights the trickle-down impact of most prison cuts at the state level.  Here are excerpts:

After four years of declines in the number of inmates held at the Sonoma County Jail, local authorities fear that an overhaul of the statewide prison system could increase the jail population by hundreds of inmates at an estimated cost of $1 million a year.

Lawmakers have until Sept. 11, the end of the legislative session, to save close to a billion dollars by decreasing the state's prison population, which is roughly double its intended capacity.

That has local criminal justice authorities and county leaders concerned that the Sonoma County Jail could fill with parolees who have violated parole and inmates who under today's regulations would be sent to state prison. “Increased victimization and a potential increase in the jail population is the big concern that law enforcement officials have,” Sonoma County District Attorney Stephan Passalacqua said. “In this day of limited resources, how do we deal with that?”...

Passalacqua, County Supervisor Mike Kerns and Assistant Sheriff Linda Suvoy, who runs the county corrections system, said [all] changes [impact] local law enforcement. “If you add inmates locally it's going to be a problem,” said Suvoy, citing staffing issues and costs of reopening units that have been closed. “The big question is how to pay for it and is the state really going to divert funding to the local governments to address those issues,” she said....

County Supervisor Shirlee Zane said there have not been any formal discussions about the local impacts of prison overhaul measures among county supervisors, but the worry is palpable, as the costs to a community are not just at the jail. “These impacts are going to be significant,” she said. “If we have 400 state prisoners coming back into the county, my hunch is well over 50 percent of them are going to need substance-abuse counseling and job assistance, and those services are being cut. Releasing prisoners and cutting services that are going to help them stay out of prison and gainfully employed is absurd.”

Kerns, though supportive of overhauling the state prison system, said he wished the state would find a way to do it in a way that didn't cost the county. “We will be lobbying against this (Senate bill),” he said. “It's going to cost us money we don't have. Basically it will mean we will have to expand existing facilities. It's going to cost us a lot more money and it's going to be much more difficult for us to provide resources.”

Some recent related posts:

August 30, 2009 in Scope of Imprisonment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Plenty of blame to go around in high-profile failure of "supervised parole"

This big crime story of the past week concerned the discovery that convicted rapist Phillip Garridowas able to kidnap and keep a young girl in backyard dwellings for nearly two decades.  This is, of course, a sentencing story in many ways, and this Wall Street Journal article highlights how it repesents a remarkable high-profile failing of "supervised parole":

State and federal officials are investigating how a convicted kidnapper and rapist was able to hide captives in the yard of his Northern California home for 18 years while under supervised parole.

Authorities over the past decade had made surprise visits to the Antioch home of Phillip Garrido, who prosecutors allege kidnapped 29-year-old Jaycee Dugard when she was 11 and kept her in backyard dwellings until her discovery this week. Ms. Dugard, who police say had two children with her captor, was reunited Thursday with her family.

Despite supervision of Mr. Garrido by parole and probation officers, state and local law enforcement agencies acknowledged their failure to find Ms. Dugard earlier.  Contra Costa County Sheriff Warren Rupf said Friday that an officer had visited Mr. Garrido's home in 2006 after receiving a 911 call that said Mr. Garrido had people living in tents in his backyard and was "psychotic and had a sexual addiction." "We should have been more inquisitive," Mr. Rupf said at a news conference. "There are no excuses."...

Mr. Garrido had been sentenced in 1977 to 50 years in prison on federal charges and five years to life on state charges after he was convicted of kidnapping a woman in California 1976. He was found guilty of taking the woman to Reno, Nev., where he sexually assaulted her, according to the Nevada Department of Public Safety. After serving 11 years, a parole board released Mr. Garrido in 1988 and placed him on lifetime probation.

Gordon Hinkle, a spokesman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, said Thursday that Mr. Garrido was supervised by a parole officer whose caseload was reduced to allow greater attention to high-risk parolees. Mr. Garrido wore a GPS ankle bracelet to monitor his whereabouts, he said. Mr. Hinkle declined to identify the parole officer, but said his agency is "very proud" of what the officer did in recent days to help arrest Mr. Garrido.

The case comes at a time when planned prisoner releases in states such as California and Michigan are renewing interest in parole boards and probation, which in some corrections systems can decide on early release. For the past 25 years or so, such boards have been out of style. Legislation in 1984 eliminated them for new federal cases due to concerns about disparate treatment of prisoners. At the state level, they were criticized for high-profile crimes committed by parolees. Michigan has since beefed up its parole board, and California is trying to figure out how to process early prisoner releases....

Mr. Garrido was under federal parole supervision when he allegedly kidnapped Ms. Dugard, according to a spokeswoman for the Nevada Department of Public Safety. Mr. Hinkle, the California corrections department spokesman, said Mr. Garrido was transferred to the custody of California's parole system in 1999.

Since then, state parole agents went to his home two or three times each month, sometimes unannounced, Mr. Hinkle said, and met with him at other locations. Mr. Garrido was "under pretty strict supervision," he said. "If everything seemed to be in order, [parole officers] take a quick look around and move on," he said. "It's not like you're going into a search situation where you're going to be throwing up mattresses and tearing up the refrigerator."

The parole and probation systems -- designed to keep close track of offenders -- have limitations, said Richard Wood, a former federal probation officer...."Some of the people you're seeing as a parole officer are very, very good at hiding what they're doing," he said. "Meeting them one or two hours a week doesn't do it."

Last year, the sheriff's department in Contra Costa County did a sweep of the residences of registered sex offenders to ensure they were complying with their release conditions. Eleven offenders were arrested, the department reported, but a visit to Mr. Garrido's house apparently didn't generate any suspicions, according to Contra Costa County officials.

August 30, 2009 in Sex Offender Sentencing | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack