Inmates: Early Release

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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...
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