Monday, November 29, 2010

A Dysfunctional, Broken System: California Department of Corrections Parole Operation

by Robin Sax
Co-authored by Caroline Aguirre, retired parole agent

In late August 2009, the arrest of parolee Phillip Garrido exposed just how broken and dysfunctional the California Department of Corrections (CDCR) has become. Investigative findings, as published by California State Inspector General David Shaw and the State Attorney's General' office, concluded that a number of parole agents over a period of nine years had failed to do their jobs properly surrounding the parole supervision of Phillip Garrido. A registered sex offender, Garrido has been charged with the kidnapping and rape of Jaycee Dugard. To date, the state of California has paid out a sum of $20 million dollars to Jaycee Dugard. Numerous other law suits are pending in which CDCR is named as defendants.

Then there was John Albert Gardner, also a registered sex offender, who admitted earlier this year to the horrific rape and murder of both Chelsea King and Amber Dubois.

As noted in the Investigative report findings by State Inspector General David Shaw:
"This report concludes that during the department's parole supervision of Gardner, it did not identify Gardner's aberrant behavior, including unlawfully entering the grounds of a state prison, a felony as well as numerous parole violations. Had the department identified Gardner criminal act and parole violations, it could have referred them to the District Attorney's or the Board Of Prison Hearings for appropriate actions. Successful prosecution of Gardner could have sent Gardner back to prison , making it impossible for him to have murdered Amber Dubois and Chelsea King."
Right after the arrest of Phillip Garrido, Matthew Cate, Scot Kernan and Robert Ambroselli, top administrators for the CDCR, openly stated to numerous news media outlets that parole agents had done a good job.

After the arrest of John Albert Gardner, these same administrators told the elected state officials and the news media that all of the parole records on John Albert Gardner (who was a discharged parolee at the time of his arrest for the murders and rapes in San Diego) had been destroyed. After the San Diego Union-Tribune confronted these same administrators about Gardner's prison central file (central files are never destroyed), then they all made public apologies, and the central file records were released to the news media. Multiple civil lawsuits have been filed naming the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation as the defendants.

On July 24, 2009, 17-year-old Lily Burk was murdered by parolee Charles Samuel in the Skid Row area of Los Angeles. Samuel admitted to the murder of Ms. Burk and received a life sentence without the possibility of parole. CDCR has failed to address the issue of how parolee Charles Samuel, who on the date and time of the murder of Ms. Burk resided in a residential drug treatment program, was able to be out and about in the community?

A CDCR spokesperson told a news media reporter that Samuel had been given a written pass to go to the Department of Motor Vehicles on the date in question and that the assigned parole agent of the residential drug treatment program had verified all of the information on the request form for the pass. Only after the murder of Lily Burk was it discovered that the DMV was closed on the date in question (Friday) for state mandated work furlough days. Where is the internal affairs investigation on the parole agent?

On July 24, 2010, bride-to-be Chere Osmanhodzic was murdered in her home in the Valley Village area of Los Angeles. Parolee Omar Armando Loera was subsequently identified as the murder suspect as a result of DNA and was arrested in Mexico. Loera has been charged with the murder of Ms. Osmanhodzic. This is yet another case of a dysfunctional parole agency. Region 3 Parole Headquarters failed to verify if Loera had been deported to Mexico, in a timely fashion, upon his release from state prison.

As a result of his documented criminal history, Loera was classified as a high-contr
ol supervision case, and this verification should have been done immediately after his release from prison. Instead, individuals assigned to the Region 3 USINS unit waited three months before doing their job. These individuals also failed to update Loera's parole facesheet. The face sheet in question did not even have a photograph of Loera. If the parole administrators assigned to Region 3 had performed their assigned duties correctly, would Ms. Osmanhodzic be alive today?

CDCR failed to make up wanted parolee-at-large notices to distribute to local law enforcement agencies. As mandated by law, per the California Penal Code, parole agents must submit a request for an arrest warrant when a parolee classified as high-control supervision fails to report to the parole unit office within 24 hours of their release dates. This was not the case with Loera. Parole administrators have said that outside law enforcement can check the parole database and find out which parolees have outstanding warrants.

Now, I ask you, with over 120,000 parolees on active parole status within t
he state of California, do these parole administrators truly believe that police officers have the time to check each parolee's status? Or, do the administrators somehow erroneously believe police officers have a magic crystal ball?

On October 30 , 2010, parolee Christopher Orlando Pinn, armed with a TEC-9, attempted to kill a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy. Pinn was subsequently arrested and faces criminal charges of attempted murder of a peace officer and possession of an assault weapon. A documented hard-core gang member, Pinn had as a special condition of his parole a ban on associating with gang members. Pinn was on parole for possession of controlled substance, a low-level, non-violent criminal offense, and was being supervised at one of the lowest levels of parole supervision.

On October 31, 2010, Halloween day, 5-year-old Aaron Shannon Jr. was proudly wearing his new Spider Man costume, dashing about in the backyard of his home located on East 84th Street, when he was gunned down by one or two suspected gang members. On November 5, the Los Angeles Police Department held a press conference where they announced the arrests of two suspects, 18-year-old Marcus Denson and 21-year-old Leonard Hall, both documented Kitchen Crip gang members. Each is to be charged with the murder of little Aaron Shannon Jr.

Let's take a good look at Leonard Hall. On the date and time of the horrific murder of this innocent small child, Hall was on active parole supervision for possession of a controlled substance and disregard for safety. As a result, he was on the next to the lowest level of parole supervision: control service out of the Huntington Park 2 parole unit. Also, as a special condition of parole, Hall could not associate with known Kitchen Crips gang members. That is what is so troubling surrounding his parole supervision level. On October 15, 2010, Hall was arrested for robbery as per parole documentation. No formal criminal charges were filed, and Hall was released from local custody on October 22.

Now, the question is did the assigned parole agent do a case review with the parole unit supervisor after H
all's release date of October 22? Review of Hall's parole face sheet notes that he is a documented hard-core Kitchen Crip gang member. Also noted in the problem area is a history of battery on a police officer. In the past, if someone was arrested on a serious or violent charge, even if no criminal charges were filed, once the parolee was released back into the community, then his supervision level would have been increased to a higher supervision level for at least a three-month period and then reduced once the parolee had remained free of any parole violations or arrests.

Is public safety no longer a concern and a priority for the CDCR? Reading through the complete court transcripts and depositions associated with the trial in the civil case of Hernandez vs. California Department of Corrections and Maria Franco (Maria Franco is the current acting head of Region 3 parole), you might be able to determine the CDCR/DAPO's mindset. It seems that the parolee classification ratings have a correlation to expenditures, namely that overtime costs are an issue, and lower classifications require less supervision.

One parole administrator has gone as far to state that less parole supervision can be a form of positive reinforcement in the long run and only enhance and encourage the parolee to remain free of involvement in new criminal behavior. Really!? As you can see with Parolee Hall, this lax parole supervision idea/policy can only lead to disaster. It allowed Hall to continue to associate with his homeboys, have possession of a loaded firearm, and then take the life of an innocent 5-year-old child.

Where is the public outcry on this parole supervision crisis? Where is the accountability? Why are these parolees not being properly supervised and monitored by parole agents? Where is the governor of the State of California on this? Why do these parole administrators continue to have their jobs? Shouldn't they be held accountable for these resulting disasters? How many more innocent people have to be murdered for the department to make changes? How many more innocent victims have to suffer at the hands of roaming parolees?


andy kahan said...

Great post----one of the best I have read in years. I have always been of the opinion that being on Parole merely means you are serving the remainder of your sentence in the community and like it or not the community is an extension of a prison unit.

Systematic failures of the parole system for non-enforcement of rules and conditions have led to the senseless yet utterly preventable deaths of countless victims.

Andy Kahan
Victim Advocate

FleaStiff said...

One bloated bureaucracy shrouded in secrecy is just like another. So what is new? The names of victims change. The names of the overpaid, underworked bureaucrats change, nothing else changes.

California Girl said...

You forgot to mention Mynesha in San Bernardino and Ryan Bonomino in Riverside.

Anonymous said...

It's not just California, either.

These kinds of cases always seem to be in the news. In fact, as soon as I read of a violent crime, I am expecting that next fact, that the perpetrator was on parole.

I have a hunch that the parole officers are being given way more parolees to supervise than is humanly possible and are underpaid for what they are expected to do.

I believe that ensuring the public's safety is the first duty of government. Ours is certainly failing at that. They've gotten sidetracked into everything else under the sun but.