Computer mishap lets hundreds of criminals go free in California

May 25, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
The state accidently released hundreds of California prison inmates by mistake, without the proper supervision and many of them were violent offenders.

A new law allows low-risk parolees to be unsupervised in California communities, but an audit show hundreds should have been very carefully watched under traditional parole.

The California Inspector General blamed a faulty computerized risk-assessment program for the release of hundreds of dangerous criminals without parole supervision. There were 1,500 inmates that were improperly designated -- 450 turned out to be offenders.

State Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, asked for the audit of the controversial new program that was supposed to only let out low-risk inmates without supervision. It was designed to save the state money.

"It confirms my worst fears, that the Department of Corrections has been releasing hundreds, if not thousands, of dangerous, highly-violent felons without any parole supervision," said Lieu.

The Corrections Department says the report is flawed, pointing out the 23 percent error rate has been improved. In fact, all 450 felons have been brought back and put on supervised parole. The agency stands by the risk assessment program developed by UC Irvine.

"It predicts risk, in fact, better than human beings can do. It uses factors proven to predict risk," said Lee Seale from the California Department of Corrections.

Still, the error rate is 8 percent under the improved system and critics, like Harriet Salarno whose daughter was murdered, say that still amounts to hundreds of unsupervised dangerous criminals on the streets.

"I don't want to see anybody walking in my footsteps," said Harriet Salarno from Crime Victims United.

The U.S. Supreme Court just ordered California to reduce its severely overcrowded prison system by more than 30,000 inmates. Senator Lieu wonders if Corrections can follow through on that without putting the public in even more danger.

"If the Department of Corrections can't safely figure out how to identify felons they to release without parole, I don't see how they can safely identify 33,000 prisoners they want to release," said Lieu.

Lieu says he wants the unsupervised parole program suspended until it can be fixed.

Load Comments