The decision to release an inmate early has been a much debated topic for quite some time. Lately, Washington, State’s criminal-justice system, or lack of it has received much criticism from the public because of the tragic death of four Lakewood police officers who lost their lives when an inmate was let out of jail early. Today the question remains whether inmates should be released early or not. Some people believe courts are demonstrating a lack of judicial restraint when rendering a decision to free a violent criminal early from custody.
On the other hand, others believe the overcrowding in prisons has put a tremendous financial strain on state budgets. Everyone is at liberty to an opinion, but the truth is there are detrimental consequences when a criminal is put back into society; he or she is a threat to public order, and it is not just non-violent criminals put back into society. Furthermore, in the attempt to reduce overcrowding, early release from prison has caused a tremendous breakdown of the parole and probation system.
Inmates have poor supervision, and can walk the streets freely to commit new crimes. This report will focus on Washington State’s criminal justice system and the problems with releasing a prisoner early. Undoubtedly, a criminal with an extensive criminal history should not be allowed to receive early release because he or she is too much of a threat to society. A perfect example of horrific consequences of an inmate put back into society early took place in November 2009, in Washington State.
Maurice Clemmons” a 37-year-old inmate, who had a long criminal record punctuated by violence, erratic behavior and mental health issues, was put back into society after posting bail. Clemmons gunned down and murdered four Lakewood police officers sitting in a coffee shop (The Seattle Times, 2009). Clemmons criminal history included five felony convictions in Arkansas, and eight felony charges in Washington State. Speaking of a series of failures within the criminal justice system; Clemmons should never have been put back into society, for the reason that he posed an enormous danger to society.
To prevent a tragedy like the one mentioned above from happening again, we will first examine the roles and responsibilities of each component of the criminal justice system and how early parole release affects them. The first section is “prosecution and the courts,” and what programs need to be implanted to improve this part of the criminal justice system. In Washington State, a parole board, typically consisting of qualified individuals, such as judges, psychiatrists, or criminologists will meet and decide if an offender is ready to be released back into society.
The members of the board check the entire criminal history of the offender; the length of time the offender has served to-date, whether the offender has participated in required programs for rehabilitation, the risk the offender poses to society, and whether the offender has engaged in illegal activities, or has had any disciplinary infractions. Prison hearings are very important to criminal justice because they are the means by which an Indeterminate Sentence Review Board (ISRB) decides if an offender should be let out of prison.
The board will consider releasing an offender if they deem the offender more likely than not to commit future offenses if released with conditions (Indeterminate Sentence Review Board, 2011). Clearly in the Maurice Clemmons case he should never have been let out of jail period. Clemmons sat in a Pierce County jail for several months pending charges of second degree rape of a child. Despite seven other felony charges, he was let out of custody when he posted $15, 000 for bail. When an offender has a long history of violence, as did Clemmons, undoubtedly early release should not be an option at any point in the offender’s sentence.
Especially,, when child rape or any sexual assault is part of the felony charges. As a consultant in the criminal justice system it is my experience and obligation to do my best in preventing future tragedies, just like the case with Maurice Clemmons. I recommend proposing a bill that will prevent any person who causes an injury to a police officer from receiving First Offender Status under Washington’s law. It is unacceptable to allow people a First Offender Status waiver or to hide behind laws for pleading guilty. The idea that police officers are targets for violent attacks is nothing new to those who wear a badge.
Neither is the idea that violent criminals such as Maurice Clemmons, seldom decide to carry out a violent attack as their first venture into the world of criminal acts. Second, I recommend proposing a bill that will prevent any person with a felony who is on probation and violates the law by committing another crime, not have an opportunity to be given bond. In addition, the entire balance of their probation should be withdrawn. Plugging the holes in the system that allows criminals to walk the streets must be a top priority, and we need to contact our legislators to make this happen.
The next section we will focus on is the “police” and how they play a role in the early release of prisoners. Many police officers disagree with prisoners put back into communities without any supervision because it jeopardizes public safety, and these offenders are coming back into the community without help in transitioning back into society. Nowadays, most states have to release prisoners early because of overcrowding and budget shortages. Even the police are affected by a budget shortage, which leaves fewer officers on the streets.
Something we need to ask ourselves is “is it worth the risk? ” Washington State will run the risk of rising crime associated to prison release, thus putting our communities in danger. The safety of society should always be the most important obligation of our administration. First, I recommend we notify our law enforcement agencies when a felon is let out early, and we provide the agency with the felons address, a full criminal history along with all information about the crime for which they were committed, the inmate’s parole officer’s name.
Second, I recommend the prison board allow law enforcement officials to object to the release of a felon (this will be documented) that way the community has a voice about the inmate prior to release. Third, I recommend inmates who are let out of prison or jail early contact their local law enforcement agency monthly, just like sex offenders who must report every 90 days. I believe holding the inmate accountable to law enforcement will help in monitoring them. If the parolee does not check in a 90 day-period, a warrant should be issued.
Last, I recommend the police designate a state parole official and set up bi-monthly meetings with parolees to build a partnership and help them re-enter society. Not only will this help the police keep tabs on parolee’s but also it helps them access community resources . The last section we will discuss is “corrections” and “rehabilitation,” and the importance they have on releasing an inmate early. Washington State’s Department of Corrections (DOC) plays an important part in our criminal justice system. In fact, Washington State’s DOC along with law enforcement agencies, are the key part in keeping the public safe.
Nevertheless, offenders need programs that will help them gain skills and self-control so that they will not commit any future crimes. The following programs are a necessity; basic and vocational education, life skills, expanded drug dependency treatment facilities, along with mental health treatment, and family centered programming. First, the offender will need to have an extensive evaluation of their risks and needs; once a reentry plan is developed, DOC can work with local communities and provide the programs that fit the offender’s assessed needs (Washington State Institute for Public Policy, 2010).
A cornerstone of the DOCC’s effort to improve public safety has many “roadblocks” and an inmate faces many barriers that are basic survival needs, such as housing, employment, education, financial, treatment, medical care, social services, and appropriate documents (i. e. , driver’s license, social security card, or other identification cards). Without successful efforts to resolve an inmate’s individual insufficiencies, the higher chance he or she will return to a life of crime (Washington State Institute for Public Policy, 2010).
Second, build partnerships between DOC and the community to ensure each offender’s successful adjustment. We can accomplish this by expanding the number of criminal justice centers around Washington State. Furthermore, work release facilities will also need to be expanded to enable more offenders to locate employment. The choice for individuals to engage in criminal behavior is influenced by circumstances that limit their ability to live as contributing members of society. It is vital to discuss the roadblocks that will prevent these programs from happening and how society can play a part in fixing these problems.
First, money will always be the main problem, especially because there have been huge budget cuts across the state. Second, allowing inmates with felonies to receive state assistance; this ban intensifies the financial pressures that cause individuals to commit crimes or use drugs. Third, allowing inmates with felonies to receive Federal Student Financial Aid; this ban prevents individuals from being able to access educational opportunities. Fourth; unfair barriers to housing, a criminal record often limits or denies an inmate federally assisted housing, and private sector housing.
Fifth; unfair barriers to employment opportunities limits individuals with criminal records. The last barrier is obtaining addiction treatment following the release from prison or proper medical care. We must ensure these individuals have access to treatment services. Whether the public likes it or not, legislation, and programs are something that is very necessary to keep offenders from re-offending, and to keep society safe. Either society wants to stop people from pursuing careers in crime or they will continue to pay into a failing system; prison.
The way that the public can be won over is clarifying that putting money into these programs is beneficial is by providing them with true facts on how community sentences and restorative justice is the answer. Above all, Congress needs to recognize that our current criminal justice system is failing. It is imperative that new legislation is voted for to help in the reentry process. Equally important is the public needs to be educated” truthfully” on crime, and statistics and do more research before voting an individual into office. In truth, it costs less to invest in prevention programs then it does to house an inmate in prison.
The public needs to realize it will take time; however, it is worthwhile. Turning someone’s life around requires an upfront investment of time and resources. These are genuine interventions that will change the lives of these offenders, plus reduce crime. To cut budget costs and release criminals back into society is a high risk; however, if criminals can be taught how to change, an impact on the problems of recidivism rates, drug abuse, violence, and crime can be achieved. Strong support that focuses on prevention interventions is the most valuable strategy that will help an offender who is put back into society.
With a plan, and providing resources is the key to successful re-integration, otherwise we are only setting the inmate up for failure. According to the U. S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Office of Justice Programs (OJP), on an annual basis, more than 650,000 offenders are released from incarceration and return to communities nationwide. Two-thirds of those released are likely to recidivate. Given this, offenders who are released early pose a significant challenge to public safety (Bureau of Justice Assistance, n. d. ).
It is imperative that criminals who are let out of incarceration early from prison have better supervision if we want to reduce crime. Furthermore with proper freeing of inmates not a threat to society will allow the criminal justice system to ensure that those who are a threat remain incarcerated for the duration of their sentence. Intensive efforts among law enforcement, courts, and corrections will address offender reintegration and the impact of programs and initiatives will help transition offenders back into the community and reduce recidivism.
Bureau of Justice Assistance. n. d. ). Building An Offender Reentry Program: A Guide For Law Enforcement. Retrieved from www. ojp. usdoj. gov/BJA/pdf/Reentry_LE. pdf Indeterminate Sentence Review Board. (2011). Prison Hearings. Retrieved from http://www. srb. wa. gov/hearings/prison_hearings. shtml The Seattle Times. (2009). Maurice Clemmons, man wanted for questioning, has troubling criminal history. Retrieved from http://seattletimes. nwsource. com/html/localnews/2010385617_webmansought29. html Washington State Institute for Public Policy. (2010). Wash. Retrieved from http://www. wsipp. wa. gov/rptfiles/10-01-1201. pdf