California has set a dubious state record since Gov. Jerry Brown took office — the largest number of prison inmates with life sentences released.
Gov. Jerry Brown has released 1,400 such inmates since his term began in 2011 and concurred with the parole board 82 percent of the time, the Associated Press reported.
By comparison, his predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, released 557 inmates and went along with the parole board 27 percent of the time during his six years in office. Before Mr. Schwarzenegger, Gray Davis released just two lifers in three years.
“This is playing Russian roulette with public safety,” Christine Ward, executive director of the Crime Victims Action Alliance, told AP. “This is a change of philosophy that can be dangerous.”
The Brown administration argues that it is merely dealing with court orders that attempt to deal with overcrowded prison populations. On Feb. 21, it also announced that it had blocked the parole of 100 inmates deemed fit by the board for release, AP reported.
At any given time, California has roughly 35,000 inmates serving life sentences, which has put strain on the state’s already-bulging prison population, AP reported. Two 2008 California Supreme Court rulings have put pressure on officials to ease parole restrictions.
California is one of four states that give governors the final decision on lifers up for parole.
“If an individual is eligible for parole and the board determines they are no longer a threat, the law says they must be paroled unless there is firm evidence indicating they are still a threat,” Brown spokesman Evan Westrup told AP.
More than 80 percent of those with life sentences are convicted murderers, with the rest largely consisting of rapists and kidnappers, AP reported.
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