Editor’s Note: California has become famous for its fiscal problems and has been the subject of political campaigns, news shows, and even stand-up comics, but no one is laughing as the state considers releasing huge numbers of the states more violent criminals in order to comply with the court’s mandate to deal with overcrowding. Parents, siblings, and the children of victims are making a desperate pleas to have these criminals punished. The New York Times’ recently covered the plight of these families in a recent story:
Times Topic: Prisons and Prisoners
Quarters are close at parole hearings.
They listened as the inmate made his case for parole. And then, exercising their rights as victims under California law, the Tays made their own case, pleading with the parole board not to grant freedom to the man who killed their son. It was the second time they had gone through this painful ritual.
“We constantly have a shadow hanging over our lives,” Ms. Tay told the commissioners. “When you suffer such a horrific crime, there is never closure.”
The rights of families like the Tays to be heard has been a fundamental tenet of a movement since California passed its first victims’ bill of rights three decades ago — a model that has been followed by states across the nation.
Until recently, most of these parole hearings — however difficult they may have been for the family members — had little practical importance: inmates serving life sentences for murder were virtually never set free. Even on the rare occasions when the parole board granted a release, California’s two previous governors — Gray Davis, a Democrat, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican — almost invariably overturned it.