7 Hastings Race & Poverty L.J. 243 (2010)
The Centerpiece to Real Reform - Political, Legal, and Social Barriers to Reentry in California

handle is hein.journals/hasrapo7 and id is 247 raw text is: The Centerpiece to Real Reform? Political,
Legal, and Social Barriers to Reentry in
California
EUMI K. LEE*
Introduction
Every year, California releases approximately 120,000 prisoners
back to the community,1 all under mandatory parole supervision.2
Approximately two-thirds of parolees return to California prisons
within three years. This continuous game of 'catch and release'4
is emblematic of the failed parole system that is both a cause and a
* Eumi K. Lee is an Associate Clinical Professor of Law at University of California,
Hastings College of the Law. This essay is the fruit of a fascinating panel discussion at the
California Corrections Crisis conference, held on March 20, 2009, in San Francisco, California. I
am grateful to the Reentry and Returning to the Community Panel - Jessica Flintoft, Gerald P.
L6pez, and Dorsey Nunn - for their important comments and their contribution to these ideas. I
am also grateful to Sarah J. Eisenhart, Deb Goodman, and Raegan J. Joern, for their involvement
in the panel planning. Special credit goes to Ariel Test and Ocean Mottley, whose participation
as my research assistants was invaluable.
1. Joan Petersilia, California's Correctional Paradox of Excess and Deprivation, 37 CRIME
& JUST. 207, 253 (2008) (In 2007, this number was higher with 138,560 offenders paroled,
discharged, or otherwise released from custody.); DATA ANALYSIS UNIT, CAL. DEP'T OF CORR.
AND   REHAB., CALIFORNIA   PRISONERS &    PAROLEES 2007    1 (2008), available  at
http://wwv.cdcr.ca.gov/Reports-Research/Offender-Information -Services-Branch/Annual/CalPr
is/CALPRISd2007.pdf. The average daily parolee population in 2008 was approximately
140,000. OFFENDER INFO. SERVS. BRANCH, CAL. DEP'T OF CORR. AND REHAB., RATE OF FELON
PAROLEES RETURNED TO CALIFORNIA PRISONS: CALENDAR YEAR 2008 1 (2009) [hereinafter
RATE   OF   FELON   PAROLEES   2008],  available  at  http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/Reports-
Research/OffenderInformationServicesBranch/Annual/PVRET2/PVRET2d2OO8.pdf.
2. California is one of only two states that has a mandatory period of parole upon release.
Press Release, Office of the Governor, Gov. Schwarzenegger Unveils Comprehensive Prison
Reform Proposal (Dec. 21, 2006), available at http://gov.ca.gov/index.php?/print-version/press-
release/4972/. Although technically the Board of Parole Hearings can waive parole, waivers are
rare. Petersilia, supra note 1, at 256-57 (noting that the parole term function[s] not as an award
for good behavior (as it would in an indeterminate sentencing system), but as a period of
extended surveillance and services).
3. This is nearly twice the national average. Petersilia, supra note 1. In 2008, the
recidivism rate among felon parolees was 67.7 percent. RATE OF FELON PAROLEES 2008, supra
note 1. In stark contrast, the recidivism rate among felon parolees in 1976 was 14.6 percent. Id.
4. Petersilia, supra note 1.

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