CDCR Law Enforcement Media

The Great Inmate Release Debacle – Part 2



Monday’s (and today’s) local newspapers and news broadcasts were filled with alarmist rhetoric about the state’s early release policy that kicked in on Jan 25, and that would result in the release of a flood dangerous prison inmates on Los Angeles.

“Over 6K Inmates to be Released Early In LA?” shrieked Monday’s KNX headline.

NBC’s Scott Weber reported that the number of prisoners being released early. was, in fact, 21,000 over the next two years, with 6,000 of those early releases coming to LA.

The LA city officials that Weber quoted on the topic were quite horrified at the prospect.

Guillermo Cespedes, who runs Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s Office of Gang Reduction and Youth Development, called the situation “a bit of a crisis.”

He said the release of inmates who are notorious gang members could disrupt progress made by gang interventionists in attaining truces and in convincing youths to stay away from gangs.

Councilman Dennis Zine, a former police officer, was infuriated by the governor’s plan.

“It’s a disaster that’s going to happen,” he said. “It really frustrates me that we’ve reduce crime and all of a sudden we’re going to see a surge.”

There was only one problem with all this hysteria about the coming crime wave: That flood of prisoners that everyone’s warning about? It doesn’t exist. What has been reported by numerous news outlets and reinforced by clueless city officials about the state’s prisoner reduction plan that began on Monday—ISN’T TRUE. Really. I’m not kidding.

The truth is out there and easily accessible, but evidently no one is bothering to fact check.


Here is the actual factual reality of the situation: In the next year the CDCR intends to reduce the population of California’s overcrowded prisons by about 6500.

That part, at least, most people seem to have a grip on.

“Reduce” however, does not mean “release.”

Most of the CDCR’s hoped for numerical reduction involves slowing down the pipeline of those going into prison, not opening the floodgates for those coming out.

Repeat, early release is not the way that the CDCR is going to lower the prison population under the new law that kicked in on Monday.

Instead, the idea is to lower the numbers by having fewer people return to prison through a parole reform plan that gives “high control” parolees increased supervision., and removes low end parolees from supervision altogether so that, although they are still technically on parole (and may be searched at any time) if they don’t commit new crimes, they won’t be sent back to prison.

Simple as that.

( Last Friday, I wrote about some of the details here.)

Again, the primary change is not to the OUT door of prison, but to the IN door.


You see, until now, California has been one of only three states in all of the U.S. that puts every single one of its offenders on parole following his or her release—a strategy that experts have, for years, been decrying as a failure.

Most states only apply parole to those people
who have committed certain kinds of crimes. The rest just get shown the door. No complex conditions of parole. No drug testing. No insistence that the former inmate can’t travel out of LA for a 2-week job training, or go to visit his mother in this or that neighborhood. And guess what? Research shows that those other more selective parole systems—in which only the high-end parolees get close monitoring and the rest can just go about their business as long as they remain law abiding— work better.


Okay, yes. There is one early release plan embedded in the CDCR’s new prison population reduction strategy.

As part of the plan, some low-level inmates who have already served their statutory sentences, will be allowed to knock up to 6-weeks off their time if they fully participate in certain kinds of rehabilitative programs such as getting their GEDs, going through a drug and alcohol program and the like—programs that have been statistically proven to reduce recidivism. The idea is to incentivize the kind of healthy behavior that may help an inmate to stay out of prison after he or she is paroled.

And how many inmates are we talking about being released 6-weeks early within the next year, statewide?

I asked CDCR Secretary Matthew Cates that very question on Monday in the course of a telephonic press conference.

He said between 1000 to 1500 maximum, for the year. Just to make sure, I asked him again. He reiterated. That would be at most 125 inmates per month— around 42 of whom would likely come to LA.

“LA always gets around a third,” he said.

Yes, you read right. Our monthly flood of early-release inmates is—at most: 42 people.

The horror.

Sadly, I think Mr. Cates is being optimistic even with the 42. After I questioned Cates fairly thoroughly on the early release issue, KQED’s Michael Montgomery asked him if the CDCR planned to add some rehabilitative and educational programs since nearly all of them have been cut.

On the topic of program cuts, Cates phumphered. Uh, no, the CDCR wasn’t really adding programs. “it’s a really hard thing that we are cutting programs at this time. But the state’s out of money. But, we still have…” and then he named a couple of programs, one of them a drug rehab program that I wrote about here. Unfortunately—although the Secretary appeared not to know it—it is a program that has already been mostly cut.

Obviously, if there are not enough of the necessary rehab programs, fewer inmates still would be eligible for early release.

So it may be that LA is going to bet fewer than 42 new inmates per month.


Near the end of the press conference, one reporter said to Cates (in a rather confrontational manner) that 6000 inmates had just been released “today in LA.”

Cates sighed. “Not by me,” he said.

“As of today, we have released zero,” said Cates. “None.” He sighed again. “There’s been a lot of misinformation. There are some people who just don’t want reform.”

You got that right.


According to Cates, there is a flood of inmates, one might say, that will be returning to LA’s streets. Around 3,000 of them this month. “Just as a matter of course, we release 9,000 prisoners a month every month,” said Cates, and about 3,000 of those come to LA every month.

You have to remember, that most of those who go to prison in California eventually get out,” he said.

“The biggest difference with the plan that went into effect on Monday,’ said Cates, “is that fewer of those 3000 will be coming back on technical violations. We aren’t putting people out the door faster.”

May it be so.

PS: Patrick McGreevy of the LA Times was one of the few who did a calm, largely accurate report on Monday, although he should have challenged the fact-free statement by Los Angeles Police Lt. Brian Johnson.


  • Cates is not being honest with you – the numbers he is throwing out is what CDCR admin instructed him to say to the media & public.
    Its going to be more than 42 – way more.
    In 6 months – In LA County, your looking at a number a little under 2,000.
    State wide, I believe its going to be a little over 4,000.
    Once they start releasing inmates – tell Cates to give you the stats and official paperwork on the numbers that were released in a period of half a year and at the end of 2010.
    Watch him start studdering.
    The concern that makes me shake my head continues to be that the majority of parolees will be released to the low income minority areas – which is so sad that our politicians would allow this to happen.

  • “Reduce” however, does not mean “release.”

    It sounds as if California is reintroducing the dealth penalty.

    But, for those who are released and, considering state budget cuts, there should be an “Adopt a Felon” program for liberals to sign on to. Yes, you can have your very own felon to coddle, feed, and house each night after he gets back from town looking for work and hooking up with his old friends.

    Okay, now that I’ve commented, I’ll go read the post.

  • The scariest thing I read in this article is the part about the state is changing the rules of probation to stop the “revolving door” for “minor” offenses such as failing a mandatory drug test. Anyone who doesn’t see the linkage between drug use and crime is lying to themselves.
    So, regardless of the exact number, here we are with a bunch of convicted felons, who have already demonstrated their inability to obey our most serious of laws, being released into a community that can’t provide for them, in an economy where a convicted felon will find it almost impossible to find employment (would you hire a felon when 20 non-felons are applying for the same job), with new rules that make it easier for them to commit crimes (drug use is a crime) and somehow this isn’t going to result in a rise in crime?
    Wake up.

  • Here’s what can happen to some people.

    100 year old pedophile back behind bars

    He’s 100 years old. He’s a pedophile. And today he’s back behind bars. …Sypnier is being held at the Erie County Holding Center because he didn’t follow the rules for his parole. He didn’t take part in sex offender counseling. …Sypnier was first convicted of a sex crime in 1978. His most recent sentence was for molesting two young Tonawanda girls when he was 90.

    For some people it never gets too old. And, this guy committed crimes after being let out the first time. Oh, but it’s a “technical violation.” Tell that to the girls and their parents.

    Honestly, one can never know for sure if a convict is going to give up his ways and not threaten the community. I might not be against early release if there could be assurances.

  • I happened to be listening to Peter Tilden’s KABC morning show and this was brought up in the 7 a.m. hour, with Dennis Zine as a guest. Zine opined that once someone’s sent away to state prison on 3 Strikes, whatever the 3rd Strike is, they should stay away for at least 25-life, arguing that the courts look at the entirety of their record anyway.

    Besides, Zine added, “once they’re send away to state prison, they become hard-core criminals.” Nice to see that one of our local officials who keeps trying to make himself a point man on anything to do with law enforcement (usually being at odds with Chief Bratton on many issues, including his wanting to impose his own eponymous “Zine’s Motion” for SO40 which Bratton said just showed his ignorance), doesn’t even PRETEND that there’s any rehabilitation going on in state prison. Stating in fact that it turns you INTO “a hardcore criminal” and hence, unfit to return to society! And how much is it costing us to turn people into “hardcore criminals? rather than even trying to rehabilitate them?

    With brains like this we are surely in good hands.

    Zine gets a bit of a challenge from Schwarzenegger, who said something along the lines that since there’s a 70% recidivism rate, not sending prisoners back to prison for minor parole violations will “save us a lot of money.” We understand that saving money is his top priority right now, and some other alternatives are draconian and hurt elderly who rely on home-care workers to stay out of expensive and debilitating nursing homes, and children, but this isn’t an idea that makes us feel any safer. Maybe this thought just needs refining, though – it’s not a Zine-ism. (Arnold’s suggestion that we help Mexico build prisons to house their own citizens and any other illegals we’ve got, some 20% of our prison population, for a fraction of the cost, makes more sense – financially if not probably politically!)

  • RobThomas Says:

    Joining the fray, I all for socialism, until I get rich. Then I’ll be a capitalist.

    I understand. You want to be rich. Until then you want the rich man to be forced to give what he has worked for to you. Then after you have it, you want to keep it for yourself and not be forced to give it to those with less than you. You seem to be envious of the rich, yet at the same time angry with them. Does the adjective jealous apply?
    You might want to take into account that you will never have the oppurtunity to get rich under any other system than capitalism. You won’t rise from poverty to become rich under a socialist system.

  • Instead of waiting for another illegal alien to commit a crime and be jailed in the U.S., why not enforce immigration laws? We can start with large fines for employers who hire illegal aliens. It should be pretty obvious by now that the state of California is going broke and allowing unctrolled immigration will only make it worse.

    Those who still believe illegal aliens are only doing the work “Americans won’t do”, are plain stupid. Anyone who has worked around any construction project, large and small has seen the shift to using cheap illegal immigrant labor.

  • A station here in Sacramento said to have no worry, because most of the inmates being released were white. Well, white collar criminals, actually. But we know what they meant.

  • Woody, that’s a great idea, adopt a felon. I’m going to adopt one of the white collar criminals they’re releasing. We’re going to sell old people bogus insurance. Isn’t this a great country?

  • Joining the Fray, you nailed it. Everything you said is true. I want to get rich, then when I get rich, I want to keep what I have. Envious of the rich? You bet your ass. What more do you want me to say?

  • But I’ll take socialism, too. I don’t like my job at all. Can’t wait till my adopted white collar criminal shows up. We’re going to light the world on fire. Hang on to your wallets.

  • Wow Rob. I wanted to say something and keep erasing it. You left me at a loss for words!! I know you are not serious, but I have not figured out if it is funny or not!

  • # PoplOCkerUNO Says:
    January 26th, 2010 at 1:42 am

    The concern that makes me shake my head continues to be that the majority of parolees will be released to the low income minority areas – which is so sad that our politicians would allow this to happen.


    The released prisoners will be going to low income areas because that’s all they can afford, just like the so many minorities who already live there. It’s more of an outrage that so many poor people just happen to be minorities. Again, if it wasn’t for their impoverished status, they wouldn’t be there in the first place.

  • And here is something else that backs up what I said on the other blog.

    Here is a report on return to custody percentages.

    A newly released report from California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) shows a substantial reduction in recidivism for offenders completing in-prison substance abuse programs…………..

  • Why isn’t it a good idea? Are you jealous? You can adopt a white collar criminal, too. Don’t get mad at me for having a an idea. Oh, and let me know if you’re happy with your life insurance. We can save you a lot of money.

  • Don’t get me wrong Rob, you already know that I believe that there is hope for SOME of these felons! So where were you when I paroled 8 years ago? Nobody was there to adopt me!! I had to do it all alone! Well at least I did it. You’re silly. I am actually in the process of gettin my life insurance as we speak!

  • BTW, my adopted felon is some guy named Madoff. Heard of him? Anyway, Bernie’s here right now and he’s telling me to tell you that we can save you a ton on your life insurance. Says it will never trace back to you, so you shouldn’t worry. I don’t know what he means by that, but whatever. He’s got me here typing for him. He can’t type. Can you believe that? Guy bilks the entire free world with a pyramid scheme, never took a typing class. He’s just sitting here watching t.v.

  • Jeff, the new rules don’t make it easier for parolees to commit crimes. The new rules simply mean that they will be sent back to prison ONLY if they commit crimes.

    It also means that parole officers will have approximately 48 people on their caseloads instead of 98. Thus those 48 can receive real supervision, as opposed to the perfunctory check-ins that presently are all that even the most devoted P.O.s are able to manage.

    We have a parole system that doesn’t work right now. It doesn’t help the parolees to succeed AT ALL, nor does it help public safety in the case of allowing parole officers to keep tabs on the people who really need close supervision.

    As Joan Petersilia, arguably the nation’s main expert on parole policy, once told me, “We couldn’t design a less functional system if we actively worked to do it.”

    It sends people back to prison that don’t need to be there, and fails to detect or control the parolees who are a genuine danger, simply because nobody has the time to oversee them, and provides zero help to those getting out of prison who often, frankly, could use some case management and referrals to help them get started.

    A lot of smart, informed people have thought long and hard before recommending these parole reforms—including notoriously conservative, law-and-order-leaning former Gov. George Deukmejian, whose commission is one of the primary recommenders of the parole reforms that were put into place on Monday.

    The objections to them are not based on hard research.

    SBL, you make excellent points. Nearly 90% of all those who go into California state prisons eventually come out. So who in their right mind wouldn’t try to use that time when we have these folks as a so-called captive audience, to help them improve themselves, so when they are deposited back into our communities that they come out better than they went in, rather than far, far worse?

    Whatever one’s stance on law-and-order issues, why in the world wouldn’t one make that practical choice?

    As someone said regarding the CDCR over the weekend, if you had a manufacturing plant and more 70 percent of your products came off your assembly line in worse shape then when they went on, would any business person in their right mind continue with those same procedures?

    And yet we do. (And forgive me for equating human beings to products, but however one cuts it, this is no way to run a railroad.)

  • You can go one further than adopting a prisoner and marry one. Dr. Phil had a show last week all about it, Prisoner for Love, about a woman who was looking for her soulmate on Quite a few women and maybe some men seem to be looking for more than just a penpal there, and imagine the gratitude from the lucky choice. In the short term, anyway. And think of all the money they’ll be saving the state!

    POPlock’s comment is more of his typical race-baiting. Of course people go home to where they came from or have family, and there happen to be more criminals from South and East L A and Pacoima than Pacific Palisades or Palos Verdes or San Marino.

  • Woody screams about “felons” who have completed their sentences and are being released. He calls that “coddling.”
    Sounds like his solution is that all criminals–from shoplifters and pot smokers on up–should have life sentences without parole. LOL

  • Anybody who learned about sex from National Geographic is going to have some extreme political views. Got to give him some slack. Bernie agrees, too. He’s sitting here playing x box now. Madden, on the easy level, and he’s just killing the computer. Says it reminds him of scamming dumb, greedy Americans.

  • Well Steve that is because he really does not know. People say that they know, but they really do not! I have been through the system, took advantage of the programs, and have been drug free and crime free for over 10 years. Thank God it was not up to him or I would have never had the chance to prove that it can work, and to help others succeed too!

  • WISS: You can go one further than adopting a prisoner and marry one. Dr. Phil had a show last week all about it, Prisoner for Love….

    Rob, when are you and Madoff appearing on Dr. Phil, and have you two set a date, yet?

  • Celeste,
    You know the prisons stopped the funding for the SAP Program which is the Drug program that was in the prisons. It is hard to offer an inmate an incentive like a drug program if it does not exist any longer.
    What I am wondering is what about the inmates that completed the drug program before it was removed from the prisons? I am just keeping track of a couple of people that I had convinced to do the sap program and they completed it. It was a successful program. Will they get the 6 weeks off of their year sentence?

  • GJ, Bernie says he’ll off himself before showing up on Phil. Bernie also says he doesn’t like you. Says you fit the perfect profile of the types of chumps he used to scam. Says that Republicans are the perfect marks.

  • My uncle’s not happy about the inmate release, because my cousin will probably eventually get released. My cousin refuses to work. My uncle would rather have him in prison. He’s threatening to move.

  • That’s a good one, GJ. But there’s nothing funny going on with me and Bernie. We’re just putting together a business plan that’s sure to work. This guy really seems to know what he’s doing. We went to McDonalds yesterday, just bought a gang of food. He pulls out this plain plastic card and slides it in the ATM, and the girl says, “thank you, Mr. Wang”. We’re going snowboarding tomorrow. That’ll be on Mr. Wang, too.

  • Sir, Pop – I am a currently a law student and employed by a federal agency involved in developing computer based criminal identification systems. Can you please expand on your opinions and professional experiences regarding the possible social impacts that the early release program would have upon the underprivileged citizens of Los Angeles. Our school’s study group is interested on using this observation as a possible research topic.
    thank you,

  • Well Celeste finally someone has got it right, and that someone is you. Thanks for the detailed and correct information.

    What is so difficult for the media to understand about the New Reform? Why haven’t folks visited the Dept. of Correction’s web site to get first hand knowledge of the plans there in California?

Leave a Comment