“Who are you today, and is there any evidence of current violence, current unreasonable risk to public safety?” —said Jennifer Shaffer to The Los Angeles Times, executive officer of Gov. Jerry Brown’s parole commission board.
Prison is about punishment, to be sure. It is also about rehabilitation in certain situations. Obviously, there are not many concerns about rehabilitating someone who is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole. But, for those who made very bad choices early in life, there should be no reason why some of them cannot make changes behind bars and one day go on to be productive members of society.
It is a sentiment that is shared among a number of California voters and lawmakers. As is evident by the passing of Proposition 57. There are many inmates who have been serving time, in some cases decades, that have taken steps to become better individuals. Earning high school and college diplomas and working programs of addiction recovery. Who those inmates are today, is often a far cry from who they were when they were sentenced. Yet, even in cases of exemplary achievement behind bars, proving you are no longer a threat to society, it was possible to be ignored by California parole boards. Not so anymore, for some.
A Second Chance
Under Prop 57, certain nonviolent felons are being given parole and good behavior opportunities. Prosecutors are no longer in charge of deciding who is given parole opportunities. For more information on what Prop 57 is about, please click here.
Governor Jerry Brown’s “new and improved” State Board of Parole Hearings is no longer flatly denying parole opportunities based on an individual’s past transgressions. Looking rather to whether an inmate poses a risk to the public’s well-being, The Los Angeles Times reports. The question is no longer of the severity of one’s crime, but if inmates know what they did was wrong and have they taken steps to change their ways?
California has the largest prison population in the country. A trend that many would like to see reversed. Getting paroled in California has long proven to be a difficult task, which is likely due to the fact that the board has been mainly made of white, male ex-law enforcement agents. In 2011, Brown appointed Jennifer Shaffer as executive officer of the State Board of Parole Hearings, she says with the aim of “professionalizing the board and making it a strong, independent body.” Shaffer went on to diversify the commission, appointing of commissioners of different genders, race and professional backgrounds.
The commission hears 400 parole cases a month, and in 2016 granted early release to almost 820 inmates, according to the article. Just to give you an idea of the progress made, that number is up from 119 in 2007, and 16 prisoners two decades ago.
Need Legal Assistance
If you have been charged with a felony or misdemeanor, please contact The Law Office of Ronald G. Brower. For more than three-decades he has been achieving favorable results for defendants in the Southern California area.