The ghost of Willie Horton has haunted the debate over the plan to cut prison costs by reducing the inmate population and relying more heavily on parole.
Now, the case of Jaycee Lee Dugard, who was rescued this week after being kept in captivity by a convicted rapist for 18 years, is expected to spark a fresh round of attacks from critics of the plan.
Phillip Garrido, who is charged along with his wife Nancy with kidnapping Dugard when she was 11 years old, was able to conceal her and two daughters he fathered with her, despite being a registered sex offender subject to home visits and monitoring by a parole officer.
Sen. Tom Harman, R-Huntington Beach, lashed out at the prisons plan in this piece by The Bee's Sam Stanton:
"This demonstrates the problems that we're going to have if we release thousands of prisoners into our local communities," said Harman, who is running for Attorney General and voted against the plan. "Here was a prisoner who was a very great danger to the community. The parole people knew it, he was supposedly being checked three times a month, and still he was able to perpetrate this crime that lasted over 18 years."
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg shot back, saying Garrido would not have been released early under the Senate-passed plan and highlighting a provision that would lower the caseload for parole officers from about 70 to 45 parolees.
"The parole reforms passed by the Senate increase parole agents' ability to more effectively monitor this kind of sex offender," Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said in a statement. "Our resources must be marshaled to crack down on offenders like Phillip Garrido. He is the poster child for the need to reduce parole officer caseloads and increase parolee monitoring like the Senate voted to do last week."
The Assembly is expected to vote on a pared-down version of the Senate-passed prisons bill on Monday.
Photo: A file photo of Jaycee Lee Dugard as a young girl.