Courts & Crime

Report: California erred in paroling high-risk inmates

Prison officials incorrectly allowed 1,500 inmates to be placed on unsupervised parole last year, including 450 who should have been classified as having a "high risk for violence," a new audit of the state's parole programs has found.

The report, which comes at a critical period for state corrections officials under court mandate to reduce prison populations by 33,000 inmates, came from the state inspector general's office.

It found that a 2009 program for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to place inmates on non-revocable parole incorrectly classified many of them initially, allowing hundreds to be returned to their communities with no supervision at all.

Corrections officials disputed the findings of the 34-page report, which does not indicate whether any of the parolees who were improperly classified went on to commit new crimes.

The report concedes that errors in classifying parolees have since been corrected. It also notes that the non-revocable parole program will be phased out as a result of Gov. Jerry Brown's plans to turn over supervision of tens of thousands of nonviolent, nonserious inmates to counties if the funding is approved.

State Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, who asked for the study, called it a "scathing report" and said the findings show more than 1,000 potentially violent inmates could have been released without supervision last year.

"I had anecdotal evidence that CDCR was releasing violent, high-risk offenders and putting them inappropriately on unsupervised parole," Lieu said. "But I did not realize the scale of what they were doing."

Lee Seale, deputy chief of staff to Corrections Secretary Matthew Cate, responded to the report with a three-page letter refuting many of the inspector general's findings. He wrote that it was "unfortunate" the report focused on a program that is expected to end and on "alleged 'errors' " that have since been corrected.

But the report raises questions about how the parole program initially was handled by corrections officials.

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