Parolees: The Revolving Door

In California, prisoners are now being released left and right. Last January the California state legislature voted into law a measure that allows the state to release "non-violent offenders" from state prison with very limited parole supervision.

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On the night of Nov. 7 of last year Officer Ryan P. Bonaminio of the Riverside (Calif.) Police Department was on patrol near the city's Fairmount Park when he spotted a semi truck that had been involved in an earlier hit and run. He pursued the vehicle. Then the driver parked the truck and ran away on foot. Bonaminio ran after him.

That's when this story took a terribly tragic turn. Bonaminio somehow slipped and fell during the pursuit. The suspect then reportedly turned and attacked Bonaminio and took away his gun. Witnesses say he then stood over the young officer and Iraq War veteran and executed him in cold blood.

The Bonaminio story is tragic and terrible on so many levels. But what makes it even more tragic is that the suspect accused of murdering this brave young patrol officer—Earl Ellis Green, 44—had been released from prison just months earlier because he was … a non-violent offender.

A non-violent offender? I don't think so. Green has a long criminal history of nearly three decades of mayhem and malevolence. He's been convicted of domestic violence, battery of a police officer, drug dealing, and vehicle theft. That's a résumé for a cop killer in training, but the California powers that be saw Green as a "non-violent offender."

In 2007, Green was convicted of felony vandalism and sentenced to three years in state prison. He served fewer than 20 months. And then he was released with very little parole supervision. Because after all, he's just a vandal, just a non-violent offender. Nevermind the fact of violent offenses in his past, including an attack on a law enforcement officer.

Green was so "non-violent" that his own family sought a restraining order against him. But none of this came to the attention of California's beleaguered parole and probation officers until after Ryan Bonaminio was murdered.

It's not my intent here to beat up on the Golden State's parole officers. They have a job that's as futile as the Greek mythological punishment of Sisyphus. And just like that mythical figure doomed for all eternity to shoulder an enormous rock up a massive hill only to watch it roll back down again, they face the same old hell every day. They have two few officers to do the job, not enough budget to do it right … well, you know the story.

So I don't necessarily believe that the parole officers can be blamed. But still we have a big problem with post-release supervision of convicts. And it's only getting worse.

As the Bonaminio case clearly illustrates, parolees and people released from prison early or even after doing their time present a great threat to America's law enforcement officers.

We are seven months into 2011, and it is looking like one of the bloodiest years in recent American law enforcement history. And one of the primary reasons that cops have been targeted for so many attacks this year is revolving door justice. According to FBI statistics from 2000 to 2009, 584 people murdered law enforcement officers; 476 or about 82 percent of these offenders had a prior criminal arrest history. There's no reason to believe that this stat doesn't hold true this year.

California is now ground zero for this issue because prisoners are now being released left and right. Last January the California state legislature voted into law a measure that allows the state to release "non-violent offenders" from state prison with very limited parole supervision. But the state really wasn't sure who was and who wasn't a non-violent offender. So a lot of folks were set loose on the streets with what the state's Office of the Inspector General calls a "high risk for violence."

What's truly scary about this situation is that nobody seems to be doing anything about it. In fact, the bureaucrats and the courts are making matters worse. Which is, of course, typical SNAFU conditions for contemporary California.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ordered California to cut its prison population by 30,000 over the next two years. Plans for achieving this goal include transferring convicts to local jails, but a large number of these people are going to be released as "non-violent offenders."

Law enforcement inside and out of California should be watching these developments with a wary eye because people released from prison without adequate supervision tend to move around. After the murder of four Lakewood, Wash., officers two years ago, it was revealed that the killer was released from an Arkansas prison. That's a long way from coastal Washington.

So if you think the pending release of convicts in California is just California's problem, think again.


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