Three Part Series-Imprisoned for Life

By Rina Palta

Via KALW/The Informant

Why murderers sometimes make model inmates



By Joaquin Palomino

When you look at the numbers, many long held truths about crime crumble. Like this one: who do you think is more likely to become a life-long criminal: a rapist or a car thief?

It turns out those who commit the most serious crimes actually re-offend at lower rates. Murderers have the lowest recidivism rate out of any California prisoner. Why is that?  Over the next couple days, we’ll spend time talking about a population called “Lifers.” They’re inmates, usually convicted of murder, who’ve been sentenced to life with the possibility of parole. In the first part, KALW’s Joaquin Palomino explores why lifers are so different than other inmates.


The politics of parole


Mike Cogh

Prison Bars

By Joaquin Palomino

A life sentence with the possibility of parole is one of the only sentences in California designed to encourage the convicted to reform. Lindsey Bolar, who served 23 years in prison before receiving parole, believes “lifers make up your best population in prison.” After serving between 20 and 25 years, Bolar says, “you know that the mad stupid stuff doesn’t go anymore, then all of a sudden you are trying to find a meaning for your life and you want to go home.”

The system seems to work. Only around one percent of lifers return to prison after being released, and almost never for another violent crimeStill, for the past three decades, it has been nearly impossible to be paroled. The reasons have less to do with public safety than politics. In the second segment of a three-part series, we look at the political chutes and ladders of California’s parole process.  KALW’s Joaquin Palomino has the story.


Imprisoned for life, Part III


Johannes Jensen


By Joaquin Palomino

Yesterday, we heard how politics have shaped California’s prison system, and about the push and pull between rehabilitation and punishment. “At the end of the day, corrections was about the bumping of heads of those people that think prison should be for punishment and those people that think that prison should be for rehabilitation,” says JB Wells, who spent almost three decades stuck between the two ideologies.

We know that in that tug of war, rehabilitation has been losing. In the last fiscal year, California spent $9.6 billion on its prison system. Just 4.6% of that went towards rehabilitation programs. In this final part of our series on sentencing in California, KALW’s Joaquin Palomino looks at changes that could reform California’s prison culture.




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