Planned early release of convicted Yosemite Lakes Park serial arsonist sparks outrage

Kenneth Jackson was sentenced to 30 years in prison back in 2014 for setting 21 fires in 2013 in Yosemite Lakes Park.
MADERA COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- A convicted arsonist responsible for setting a string of fires in Yosemite Lakes Park in Madera County is set to be released next week after serving just eight years of his original 30-year sentence.

Kenneth Jackson was sentenced back in 2014 for setting 21 fires in 2013 in Yosemite Lakes Park, a community in Madera County between Yosemite National Park and Fresno, near the town of Coarsegold.

He had his sentence reduced in 2018. Early parole for Jackson has been blocked twice by Madera County.

RELATED: Yosemite Lakes Park arsonist eligible for parole under Prop 57

He was set to be released in 2023, until now.

While the community can't stop him from being released, they are doing what they can to make sure he can't come back to Madera County.

"I remember feeling almost paranoid, time after time, looking out the windows, looking for more smoke," said Janet Morita, a resident of Yosemite Lakes Park.

Eight years ago, the community of Yosemite Lakes Park lived in fear, plagued with an almost two-month stretch of daily arson wildfires.

Morita remembers like it was yesterday.

"It was a very traumatic time; he was setting fires almost every day," she said.

Madera County District Attorney Sally Moreno released a video statement Friday morning, saying Jackson's early release was an outrage.

"I'm angry. This is wrong and should not be happening," Moreno said.

The district attorney held a news conference Friday calling on victims affected by the fires to fill out a Request for Victims Service form to have Jackson paroled in another county.

Moreno said the district attorney's office found out about Jackson's release on Thursday.

RELATED: 41 CA district attorneys come together to petition against early release of 76,000 inmates

In her video statement, she said there was a lack of transparency in the process used by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation for determining which inmates will be released as they try to trim the state prison population.

She added it's why she and dozens of other district attorneys across the state filed a lawsuit against the agency.

"We don't know when someone like this man who terrorized our community is going to get out until the very last minute," Moreno said.

Jackson's defense attorney said his client has maintained his innocence throughout.

"And from what he was convicted of, and what the appellate Court found, there was not enough evidence to convict them, I do believe he he's paid his debt to to society," said Craig Collins.

Under Proposition 57, Jackson was eligible for non-violent offender parole.

Without the parole program, he would have been released in 2024.

On Friday, about two dozen residents gathered at the Yosemite Lakes Park Community Church to file paperwork urging the state to keep Jackson from returning to Madera County.

"Going to prison is a punishment, but it doesn't cure him of being a firebug. If he comes back here, I'm afraid he's just going to do it again," said Morita. "I feel very strongly he'll set more fires."

Action News has reached out to the CDCR. It has not yet returned our request for a comment.

EDITOR'S NOTE: A previous version of this story said Jackson has been convicted for setting 30 fires. That was incorrect. The story now reflects the correct number of fires. We regret the error.

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