News Release

APPA Calls Parole Abolition Misguided and a Danger To Public Safety
For Immediate Release: 04/16/1999

The Past President of APPA, Mario Paparozzi, recently reaffirmed the association’s position that parole is a critical element of a comprehensive strategy to fight crime and make people safer. It is a mistake at best, and political posturing at the expense of public safety at worst, to force the concept of parole into the language of early release from prison or being soft on crime. Parole systems work towards stacking the deck in society’s favor when it comes to public safety. If there have been problems with parole, Paparozzi said, it has been with the long standing intrusion of politics on the critically important professional duties of boards in making decisions about which criminals should be released from prison and how they should be supervised in our community.

Paparozzi said that truth-in sentencing schemes that are held up as the holy grail of public safety remove the opportunity for a citizens oriented parole board to review the progress of criminals prior to their release from prison. In the absence of a board, criminals are released based upon a simple mathematical calculation of time served – and they are released to the community on that date ready or not! One of the best known examples of how the public is endangered by the abolition of a review of a criminal prior to release is the case of Polly Klaas, Paparozzi said. Klaas’ murderer, Richard Allen Davis, was denied parole by a parole board on six occasions. In 1977, California, in its quest to be "tough on crime, " abolished parole for certain offenses and moved to a truth-in sentencing model for the release of criminals from prison. This turn of events made it mandatory that inmate Davis be released from prison to the community. It was during this period of community release that he committed the horrendous crime for which he now sits on death row.

Paparozzi said that the best public safety strategies when it comes to parole involve a criminal serving a punitive portion of a sentence during which there can be no parole and a subsequent portion of the sentence during which inmates must earn their way out of prison based upon the approval of a parole review board. Such systems, he said, provide for the legitimate need of victims and for the general public to know how much time a criminal will serve for a crime. In addition, everyone will also know that there will be a sensible review prior to the front gate of the prison swinging open and the criminal walking out the door into our communities.

Finally, Paparozzi said, parole review hearings prior to a criminal’s release give victims an opportunity for a full airing of their concerns and grievances. Often victims are deprived this opportunity on the front end as a result of criminals being sent to prison on a plea-bargained sentence rather than after a full and open court hearing. The fact of the matter is that the vast majority of the criminals receive their sentences as a result of such "bargains" rather than from a jury conviction. A plea-bargained sentence carries a fixed number of years; the only problem is that the sentence is not usually consistent with the crime that was actually committed. Paparozzi said that given the criminal justice system’s failure to charge and convict criminals for the crimes they actually commit, we must ask ourselves if it is parole that is really the problem.