Here are two very good articles on Lifers & their quest for that second chance…parole. Harriet Salarno of CVU continues to spew her venom in the second article….for some it will always be about retribution, never taking the healing journey…..
Take the politics out of parole for lifers
Gov. Martin O’Malley’s budget proposal this year calls for increasing the use of parole in Maryland. Given rising incarceration costs, this is a wise policy decision. Too many people who no longer pose a risk to public safety are being warehoused for years at great expense to the taxpaying public.
But there is a group of people who, though they are eligible for parole, will probably never receive it under current law: those serving life sentences. That’s because Maryland, like only two other states (Oklahoma and California), requires that the governor sign off on parole commission decisions for “lifers.” For more than a decade now, every time the parole commission has recommended a “lifer” for parole, the governor has withheld his approval.
The Maryland General Assembly will be taking up a bill that would put parole decisions back in the hands of those who know best how to judge risk and evaluate rehabilitation — the state Parole Commission. This body evaluates thousands of people eligible for parole every year, and it understands the characteristics of those who succeed after release. While board members are appointed by the governor and remain accountable to him and the public, they don’t have to worry about being called “soft on crime” in high-profile political campaigns.
To be clear: In Maryland you can receive a sentence of life without the possibility of parole. But there is also a group of convicts whose life sentences include the possibility of parole. Judges choose to give this parole-eligible sentence for a number of reasons, including a person having been a juvenile at the time of the offense. The politicization of this issue, however, has essentially done away with this distinction, leaving many prisoners who could be working diligently toward parole without any hope.
For more than 130 years, parole has been an important part of the U.S. justice system. In the 1870s, reformers argued that having sentences that could vary in length would encourage people in prison to follow rules and improve themselves. The idea of sentences permitting early release when appropriate, combined with supervision in the community of those granted parole, caught on, and by 1944, every jurisdiction in the United States had some form of parole release. While “truth in sentencing” has in many places limited the use of parole, in most states it continues to serve the purposes for which it was originally established: It provides incentives for people in prison, improving morale and prison safety; it gives people a structured way to return to the community from prison; and it offers a way to safely reduce prison populations and their costs, which in Maryland run around $30,000 per person per year.
San Quentin Inmates Serving Life Sentences Hope For Parole Under Gov. Brown
February 9, 2011 10:26 AM
On a sunny day last June, convicted murderer Ernest Morgan stood in a courtyard at San Quentin State Prison chatting animatedly about his plans for life on the outside.
It was the day he would find out whether Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger would let stand a state Board of Parole Hearings decision that found him suitable for release after more than 20 years behind bars. Morgan was serving a sentence of 15 years to life on a second-degree murder conviction out of Alameda County.
Later that day, a notice came in from the governor’s office.
Morgan’s parole had been denied.
A 1988 state constitutional amendment approved by California voters allows the governor to overturn parole board decisions in murder cases. Since then, governors have used that power to reverse hundreds of parole board decisions that would have freed inmates sentenced to life with the possibility of parole.
“It’s very frustrating because you’re in this limbo period,” said Michael Satris, a Bolinas attorney who represents life inmates and condemned prisoners.
“You finally are vindicated, you’ve gotten your piece of gold from the board, which is almost impossible to get as it is because they themselves have a minuscule rate of parole grants,” only to have the governor reverse the decision, he said.
Morgan, now 41, went before the parole board again on Dec. 6 and was found suitable for release a second time.
His hopes now lie with Gov. Jerry Brown, who has not yet stated what his approach will be to such cases.
The governor’s office declined to comment for this story but Brown spokeswoman Elizabeth Ashford said that in his first three weeks in office, Brown reversed three parole board recommendations to release convicted murderers from prison, including Andrew Otton, who killed a drug dealer in San Mateo County in 1982.
Those following the issue say it’s too early to tell whether Brown will be more hands-off than previous governors.
Schwarzenegger reversed about 70 percent of parole board grants for convicted murderers during his time in office, according to a review of reports from the governor’s office.