Sacto 9-1-1
August 3, 2011
Garrido case sparks legislative effort to reform parole

By Sam Stanton
sstanton@sacbee.com

With the Phillip Garrido fiasco as a backdrop, legislative and law enforcement leaders today agreed to work toward preventing a similar one.

In a public meeting at the state Capitol convened by state Sen. Ted Gaines, R-Roseville, and El Dorado County District Attorney Vern Pierson, officials discussed the failures that led to Jaycee Lee Dugard remaining Garrido's captive for 18 years and offered ideas on how to improve supervision of sex offenders.

Gaines said he plans to introduce legislation soon to address a state Supreme Court decision from 2008 that he and Pierson say has created a spike in the number of inmates serving life sentences who are winning release from parole boards.

That decision held that a parole board may not base a decision on whether to release an inmate solely upon the circumstances of the crime that sent the inmate to prison. Because of that decision, from 2008 through 2010, 1,329 lifers have been granted parole, Pierson said, compared to 1,821 from 1978 through 2007.

Pierson contends that the law needs to be changed to allow parole boards to consider not only psychiatric and other reports on an inmate's behavior but also the nature of the crime.

Gaines said he believes such a change in the law can win widespread support.

"We want this to be a bipartisan effort to make sure our children are not in peril," he said.

In a two-hour discussion, Gaines, Pierson and others discussed the progress that has been made since Dugard, who was kidnapped at 11 in 1991, was found alive in August 2009.

Various investigations have determined that federal -- and later state - parole agents failed in their supervision of Garrido, who had a lengthy criminal history and was on parole for a 1976 kidnap-rape when he and his wife, Nancy, abducted Dugard.

Lee Seale, director of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's internal oversight division, said that as soon as Dugard was discovered alive his department launched two internal probes of how agents missed her presence on the Garrido's Antioch property.

Both probes found "serious shortcomings," Seale said, adding that the department is working constantly to improve its supervision of sex offenders.

"The efforts are ongoing," he said. "It's not something that we look at and then forget."

James Ware, chief judge of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco, said all agencies and states need to improve the manner in which they share information on parolees they are supervising.

"The sharing of that information should be more free flowing," said Ware, who last month ordered the release of a confidential federal review of agents' handling of the case that was highly critical of the federal government.

"I deeply regret that our system failed Jaycee Dugard," Ware added.

There was little dispute that there had been a massive series of failures to detect Dugard's presence as a captive, and Pierson, who won guilty pleas from the Garridos in April and packed them off to prison, noted that the public may never know the full extent of his crimes.

"The crimes known to Phillip Garrido are extensive," he said, noting that he has been tied to at least five rapes or attempted rapes.

In addition, Pierson said that Garrido, in an interview with investigators earlier this year, had admitted to other abductions as well as dozens of date rapes.

Garrido claimed he had never killed anyone, but made it clear that he had no problem lying to authorities if he didn't want them to know about some crimes.

"He was fairly proud of that," Pierson said.

Call The Bee's Sam Stanton, (916) 321-1091.

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