By Susan B. Loving
Special to The Sun
Q: Since the State Question passed that removes the governor from the parole process, I am wondering what the benefits of that change will be.
A: Before the recent amendment, the governor considered inmates for parole only if parole was first recommended by the Pardon and Parole Board. The amendment now allows parole for a limited category of non-violent offenders, based solely on the board’s recommendation, without involvement of the governor.
For each offender considered for parole, Parole Board members receive an extensive investigative report, and review letters or receive comments from persons protesting or supporting parole, including victims and district attorneys. The board also personally interviews some offenders. Additionally, board members regularly receive training, both at their meetings and at national meetings, regarding factors to consider in deciding whether an offender should be paroled.
Governors have many important time demands, and may not have the time or resources to duplicate the board’s training, or its detailed investigation of each offender. Moreover, there is the potential for significant delay between the time the board considers an offender for parole and the time the governor approves or denies it.
Since the state pays between just under $2,000 to more than $4,000 dollars per month to incarcerate each offender, and during any given year, hundreds of offenders will be recommended for parole, even a one-month delay while the governor reviews each recommendation represents a significant cost to the state. Removing the governor from the process will free up space in crowded prisons, and save the state money.
Accelerating the time when an offender returns to the community results in other significant financial benefits to the state. Most offenders were employed when they were arrested. Incarceration results in lost income tax and sales tax revenue to local, state and the federal government; lost productivity; delay in paying victim restitution or court costs and fines; and uninsured, sometimes extensive medical care. Perhaps most important, incarcerated parents can’t financially support or care for dependent children or other family members, often resulting in increased need for public assistance for offenders’ families.
Most offenders will eventually be released from prison. For some offenders, the Constitutional amendment will allow the state to conserve limited resources by decreasing delay in releasing parole-eligible offenders who have modified their behavior and gained the skills necessary to be successful on the streets.
SUSAN B. LOVING is an attorney for Lester, Loving & Davies P.C. More information is available at lldlaw.com. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.