Californians Beware: 450 High-Risk Criminals on the Loose

As if people don’t have enough to worry about while going about their days, the state of California has recently revealed that a computer error in the prison database has improperly freed more than 1,500 inmates in 2010, and that more than 450 of them are considered highly dangerous and “carry a high risk for violence.” And to make matters worse, these wrongfully freed inmates can not be prosecuted or returned to prison unless they get caught committing another crime.

In an effort to cut down on prison overcrowding excess spending, California enacted a new law designed to to free less-serious offenders from prison and allow them to return to society. However, as there are so many prisoners, it would take forever to manually go through each of the prisoner’s records, so a computer program was created to filter out good candidates.

Here’s the kicker — out of all the people that were chosen by this program to be freed without parole (meaning absolute freedom without having to check in with a counsellor or following specific rules), almost 25% (1,500 inmates) were erroneously chosen, and out of that percentage, 450 are considered highly dangerous and likely to commit violent crimes. And due to a loophole in the law, even though the state knows it made a mistake, it cannot legally return these people to prison unless they get caught committing another crime.

To ease your panic just a little, these freed inmates were getting close to their freedom, however, they were supposed to be released on parole, meaning they would have to check in with a parole officer on a certain basis and follow certain rules. But now they’ve simply gained their freedom and are free to do as they wish; a pretty scary thought when you think about it, but lets hope that they were reformed in prison and will now live a life free of crime.

Here’s another interesting fact: the U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that the state must reduce its prison population by about 33,000 inmates throughout the next two years to reduce crowding and further save money. The corrections office reported that the flaw in the system has been fixed and that the filtering system is now fully accurate, which it hopefully is; but to be realistic, there should be ways to verify these inmates’ records before their release this time around.

(Via CBS News) / (Image by Tim Pearce, Los Gatos licensed under Creative Commons)

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