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Early parole and its effect on the region: Wary of inmate release

Police assess implications of early releases on public safety, officer duties.

February 26, 2010|By Veronica Rocha

Despite reassurances from state officials that the thousands of inmates due to be released early from prisons will be low-risk offenders, Glendale and Burbank authorities say the state is abdicating its duties, forcing their officers to act as parole agents.

Starting Jan. 25, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation was allowed to begin releasing inmates early in an effort to relieve overcrowded prisons, cut costs and reduce the burden on overworked parole agents.

But the program has been a source of contention between the state and local law enforcement officials, who say freeing inmates without active parole supervision threatens public safety.


Glendale, Burbank, La Cañada Flintridge and La Crescenta could see up to 44 newly released inmates move into their communities without supervision, although local officials say that number could be far higher.

“We are expecting that list is probably going to shrink, but that is a conservative estimate and projection,” said Gordon Hinkle, a spokesman for the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Glendale Police Chief Ron De Pompa said the state figures are off because a 50% caseload reduction would leave the other half without supervision.

“We think that those estimates are underestimated,” De Pompa said.

Glendale police estimate that the city could see up to 315 inmates released by 2011, he said.

The state projected that 6,500 inmates could be released this year due to parole changes, and fewer of them will return to prison because of successful reentry or less restrictive monitoring, Hinkle said.

“As far as public safety, in general for the state as a whole, we think it’s a vast improvement,” he said.

But local authorities have said that state parolees have a high rate of recidivism, which means the program would further drain resources.

“It means that criminals are going to end up on this turnstile apparatus that keeps putting them out on the streets,” he said.

Glendale police arrest about 170 parolees for criminal offenses each year, De Pompa added.

“We are dealing with career criminals,” he said.

State officials acknowledge that California inmates have a high rate of recidivism compared to other states, but say the issue could be combated through prison education and substance abuse rehabilitation.

‘We are all in the same boat...’

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