Mountain View Voice

News - April 2, 2010

Early parole worries MVPD

Police fear consequences of losing touch with inmates released under new program

by Kelsey Mesher

Under legislation passed last year, 6,500 California prison and jail inmates are scheduled to be released over the next year — and Mountain View police say they're not sure what to expect.

"They just release them and they're not required to check in with a parole officer, they're not required to do anything," said police spokesperson Liz Wylie.

Senate Bill 18 (3X), passed last year, went into effect in late January. The law aims to reduce costs at the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, in part by granting early parole to prisoners who are deemed not likely to become repeat offenders.

"The new law creates many challenges for us locally, but we will forge ahead and adapt to the changes while continuing to provide exceptional law enforcement services to the community," said police Chief Scott Vermeer in an e-mail to the department.

Wylie said those convicted of sex crimes and violent crimes are not eligible for release. Known prison gang members also are not eligible.

"Mountain View's gangs are not prison gangs," Wylie said. "They may have ties to them but they're not actually prison gangs."

But when asked what types of parolees could show up in Mountain View, Wylie said it's impossible to know, and that the state is not giving local police agencies specific information about the new parolees.

"This has never been done before so we're not sure how it's going to pan out," she said.

Another important aspect of the early parole program is that released offenders will not be subject to "technical" violations the way typical parolees are. This means, for example, that while still subject to search and seizure, new parolees would not have to check in with a parole officer each month or stay away from alcohol.

"There's no more terms, so we have zero control over them," Wylie said. "The whole point of parole initially was, 'We are going to release you from prison early, but for the next several years you have a lot of rules you need to live under.'

"All of those rules are gone now. It's like a get out of jail free card. If we find a gang member released on this and he's around other gang members and drinking alcohol, there's nothing we can do."

She added that while police are losing their ability to monitoring parolees, those released are losing access to much-needed support resources.

"Under traditional parole ... you're being offered services," Wylie said. "They're making sure you have a job and a support system and counseling or drug treatment."

Police are worried that, for example, a person involved in drug use who kicked the habit in prison or with supervised parole might slip back into using.

"They're out and about with no structured support system," Wylie said.

E-mail Kelsey Mesher at kmesher@mv-voice.com ?? ?? ?? ??

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