Monday, December 17, 2012

California Parolees Get A Pass

In an effort to relieve prison overcrowding, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation announced it planned to begin a review of more than 9,200 outstanding arrest warrants of parole violators to determine if pursuing these convicted felons would be in the “interest of justice.” It would be in the “interest of justice” to ensure that these paroled convicted felons are arrested and returned to prison because they violated the terms of their parole. Instead, the CDC will be weeding out “older, less urgent cases and allow a focus on dangerous parolees” according to the Associated Press based on a report from the Los Angeles Times. No matter how it is spun, the bottom line is that upwards of 70 percent of these parole violators could essentially receive amnesty. This is another example of Gov. Jerry Brown’s goal to empty the state’s prisons in an effort to balance California’s bloated budget deficit, at the expense of public safety. And, make no mistake about it, the public will be paying a price for this loony decision. A parolee is someone who has been convicted of a felony and sent to state prison. For a variety of reasons, parole boards routinely grant parole to these felons under conditions that they get employment, not associate with known criminals, not take drugs or alcohol, not commit future crimes, and report their progress of assimilating into society to their parole officer. Unfortunately, almost without exception, these parolees continue where they left off in their criminal careers, and victimize many more individuals before being arrested again. Getting arrested automatically violates their parole and subjects them to completing their original sentence. The new crime must also be adjudicated exposing them to even more prison time. Parolees have been known to murder police officers and citizens, rob people, commit burglaries, sell drugs and possess dangerous weapons, to name a few crimes they characteristically commit. Rodney King is probably the best known parolee. So why would a responsible governor, concerned about public safety, allow his CDC to ever consider instituting a policy to give these parolees a pass? If the governor wants to let criminals out of prison to save money, why not release all the thousands of illegal aliens behind bars and allow the Department of Homeland Security to return them to Mexico? That would immediately ease prison overcrowding and save the state at least $106 million dollars. These prisoners can spend the balance of their time in a Mexican jail, or roam the streets of Mexican cities for all I care. Either way, they would no longer be the responsibility of the State of California. If even more money is needed to expand prison capacities to house dangerous parole violators, stop educating illegal aliens. The best cost estimate to educate illegal alien children in K – 12 grades is roughly $4 billion dollars. That alone represents a significant percentage of California’s current deficit. The money would much be better spent on public safety. Of course, that will never happen in this sanctuary state. California’s problem is that its priority of expenditures is totally skewed. It pays for things is shouldn’t, and doesn’t spend enough money on important matters such as education and public safety. Proposition 36 recently passed, placing restrictions on when prosecutors can file charges on twice convicted felons that would normally have led three strikers to a 25 year to life in prison sentence. Facing that sentence enticed the vast majority of these two strikers to plead guilty to a lesser offense to avoid severe sentences. Now, many more of them will elect to go to trial, having nothing to lose, costing even more tax money. State government’s first responsibility should be public safety. Allowing parolees to assimilate back into the general population without any strings attached will most certainly increase crime, diminish people’s quality of life, and sadly cause many people to lose their lives.

Senate has yet to vote to extend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act

The Senate has yet to vote to extend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act which expires at the end of this month. Last September, the house overwhelming passed the extension by a vote of 301 to 118, but the Senate, as usual, has been dragging its feet. The FISA allows the FBI and Intelligence agencies to monitor foreign intelligence agents located abroad as well as U.S. Citizens when they receive telephone calls from suspected terrorists or spies when the calls are initiated overseas. Under the original act, the FBI can, under exigent circumstances, unilaterally flick the switch to begin monitoring telephone calls of terrorists or spies; but it must present its case and receive permission from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court within 72 hours to continue. The Court consists of 11 federal judges from different circuits around the country with three residing within easy commuting distance to Washington, D.C. The Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court appoints the judges to the court, and none can serve more than one seven year term. The “secret court” is admittedly one-sided, in that the government makes it case to initiate or continue electronic surveillance without any knowledge of the person(s) in question. If there was, it wouldn’t exactly be a secret court proceeding. Records of court hearings are made, but they are classified, as they should be. There is also a FIS Appeals Court, but it is believed it has only heard one appeal since its inception in 1978. No matter how you examine it, the original and amended Act is designed to ensure that the government does not abuse U.S. Citizens’ rights; it merely expedites what is otherwise an arduous undertaking to secure a warrant to conduct a wiretap. This act is necessary because espionage and terrorism investigations require immediate action to uncover plots and prevent potential harm. FISA was enhanced when it was amended after 9/11 to allow the FBI to intercept e-mails and telephone calls of foreigners located overseas. Think of how many acts of domestic terrorism the news media has reported that have been averted, at least some of which were surely as a direct result of FISA intercepts. The exact number has not, and should not be disclosed. Democrats and Republicans both criticized the amended act because when foreigners call U.S. citizens, those conversations are monitored as well. Some lawmakers are demanding to know the number of U.S. citizens and residents whose communications have been collected under the law. The government has refused to release those numbers for good reason. Disclosing the number would provide clues to the effectiveness of FBI and intelligence agency operations, and possibly who it is monitoring. The ACLU, of course, hates the act, and would like to see it just disappear at the end of the year. There has yet to be one proven abuse by the FBI or other agencies participating in this program. So, why the sudden concern of abuse? If the Senate stalls and lets the FISA Amendments Act expire, ongoing investigations would be placed in jeopardy. Valuable time would be wasted, and intelligence lost, trying to make up for the short comings of not being able to monitor the electronic communications of terrorists communicating to operatives in the United States. The Senate must act soon to not jeopardize national security. Osama Bin Laden may be dead, but al-Qaeda is still around as well as the scores of spin-off terrorist groups and affiliates that are still in operation. Let’s hope the Senate does it job and passes the FISA Amendments Act extension before the end of the year.