Virginia Senator Joe Morrissey (D. Richmond) plans to introduce a bill in 2022 that will restore parole to make violent criminals, including murderers, eligible for release from prison after serving 15 years of less. Attorney Hans Bader writes in Liberty Unyielding that the Democrat majority in Virginia’s House of Delegates and in the Senate almost assures passage. Gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe has indicated that he would support efforts to restore parole if elected next month.
Category: Probation and Parole
As stated in a recent Bill Otis’s post on Wednesday, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) recently released a report that examines 10-year recidivism patterns of prisoners released in 2008 from 24 states. The study has a lengthy follow-up period of ten years, which is useful in tracking recidivism rates over time. A similar report was released on the topic in July 2021 that included data from 34 states, but the follow-up period was only five years (2012-2017). Similarly, BJS also released a report in May 2018 that examined recidivism rates of offenders from 30 states with a nine-year follow-up period. Extending the follow-up period allows researchers to examine recidivism patterns over longer periods of time, which is one of the main benefits of the current study.
In last week’s post, I noted the press report that two of Sen. Robert Kennedy’s children spoke in favor of the parole of assassin Sirhan Sirhan. Turns out those two were definitely not speaking for the family as a whole. AP reports:
BOSTON — Former congressman Joseph P. Kennedy II, the oldest son of Robert F. Kennedy, denounced the possible parole of the man convicted of killing his father in California in 1968.
“Two commissioners of the 18-member California Parole Board made a grievous error last Friday in recommending the release of the man who murdered my father,” Kennedy wrote in the emailed statement released Sunday. “I understand that there are differing views about ending the sentence of this killer, including within my own family. But emotions and opinions do not change facts or history.” Continue reading . . .
Sirhan Sirhan was deservedly sentenced to death for the assassination of Robert Kennedy. Regrettably, a double hit of judicial activism struck in 1972, saving him and many others from their deserved punishments. In February of that year, the California Supreme Court declared that capital punishment violated the California Constitution, brushing off the inconvenient truth that the constitutional convention had debated and voted on the precise question and decided it the other way.
A few months later, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that the way nearly all capital punishment statutes at the time gave wide-open discretion to the jury violated the United States Constitution. Only a year earlier, the high court had decided 6-3, in a thorough and scholarly opinion by Justice Harlan: “In light of history, experience, and the present limitations of human knowledge, we find it quite impossible to say that committing to the untrammeled discretion of the jury the power to pronounce life or death in capital cases is offensive to anything in the Constitution.” Had the Constitution been amended in the interim? No.
California had no life-without-parole alternative at the time, so all the death row inmates got life with parole, including Charles Manson and Sirhan Sirhan. But surely no parole board would actually let either of these two out, considering the magnitude of their crimes, right? Continue reading . . .
In a court filing today (August 18), two victims’ groups, Crime Victims United and Citizens Against Homicide, joined a lawsuit by district attorneys to block new regulations announced on May 1 by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) making 76,000 inmates eligible for early release. A video of the press conference is here. The new regulations would allow the early release of criminals convicted of both violent and non-violent crimes, including murderers and sex offenders. Inmates that prison officials determine have behaved well or participated in rehabilitation programs would be eligible for release after serving one-half of their sentences.
Katy Grimes of the California Globe has this story discussing what is making California’s cities more dangerous with recent data on crime rates. Grimes mentions a few of the propositions that have impacted crime over the last decade.
Proposition 47 largely decriminalized theft and drug crimes by reducing those crimes and a number of other “non-violent” felonies to misdemeanors; Prop. 57 allows early release for “non-violent offenders,” including rape by intoxication of an unconscious person, human trafficking involving a sex act with minors, arson causing great bodily harm, drive-by shooting, assault with a deadly weapon, and hostage taking.
However, there is one bill that was not highlighted. AB 109 signed by Governor Jerry Brown in 2011 which allowed for the release approximately 30,000 felons from state prison with most going on probation rather than parole. This bill removed the option of prison sentences for crimes such as auto theft, drug felonies and domestic violence and replaced it with county jail time or rehabilitation services.
Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón’s Special Directive 20-08, forbids the deputies working for him from applying sentencing enhancements to charges against criminals, even for violent crimes. As reported by Los Angeles Association of Deputy District Attorneys (ADDA) President Michele Hanisee today:
Nearly all…crimes are probation eligible. Murder is probation eligible. Carjacking is probation eligible. Kidnapping is probation eligible. What typically causes a crime to be ineligible for probation is the addition of a sentencing enhancement, for example, use of a deadly weapon or infliction of great bodily injury. But since filing all but a handful of sentencing enhancements is prohibited, nearly every crime remains probation eligible. Thus – even for murder – the presumptive offer for those roughly 95,000 plus cases for which plea bargains are offered must be probation absent “extraordinary circumstances.”
The directive does not define what qualifies as “extraordinary circumstances.” What does that mean in the context of a murder case, or a carjacking case? But by definition, “extraordinary circumstances” will be a rare exception. The rule is that prosecutors must offer a plea bargain that results in the defendant going home on probation rather than serving time in custody. Even for murder.
Fox LA has this story on Howard Elwin Jones, a gang member who murdered two teenagers at a party during Christmas in 1988. One of the boys, Chris Baker, was only 17 years old, and was shot by Jones on the assumption that the red Santa hat he was wearing indicated his membership in a rival gang. Jones was sentenced to 45 years to life in prison. SB 260 was signed into law in 2013 by Gov. Jerry Brown, made Jones eligible for parole. He had been denied twice until Jones had his third parole hearing in February by Gov. Gavin Newsom’s parole board and was found eligible for release. The parole hearing excluded prosecutors per District Attorney George Gascon’s directive that their involvement in cases ends at sentencing. This murderer’s early release also included Gov. Gavin Newsom’s review and approval. Jones is set to walk out from San Quentin on Monday.
The Associated Press has this story on the early release of thousands of inmates; “California is giving 76,000 inmates, including violent and repeat felons, the opportunity to leave prison earlier…” This is result of a promise made by Governor Newsom to decrease prison populations throughout the state of California and close prisons. Thanks to Proposition 57 (adopted in 2016) state prison inmates, even those convicted of violent crimes, receive “good time” credits to reduce their sentences by up to 50%. Last year approximately 21,000 inmates in California were released from prison. There will be a total of 3 prison closures in California by next year.
A Los Angeles murderer who raped and stabbed a woman to death in 1982, was released on parole in 2018 under new rules adopted by Jerry Brown’s Proposition 57, “The Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016”. Bill Melugin of Fox News reports that on April 8, 2021, Eddie Allen Harris was arrested for stabbing another woman to death. Brown’s Act gave the state’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation unlimited authority to release convicted criminals, even murderers. It is the second time Harris benefited from Jerry Brown’s soft spot for criminals. Back in 1982, when Harris killed his first victim, Brown, serving his second term as Governor, had appointed liberals to the state parole board, vetoed a law to restore the death penalty, signed a bill into law called the Prison Inmates Bill of Rights, and had created the most liberal Supreme Court and appellate courts in state history. A conviction of the rape and stabbing murder of a woman would typically be charged as aggravated first degree murder, carrying a sentence of death or life without parole. Under the Brown administration Harris got 15-years-to life. In a just world, he should have never set foot outside of prison