Prop. 9 would change parole hearing system

October 14, 2008 8:38:27 PM PDT
In April 1974, Betty Carlson's son Frank was murdered and his wife was brutally beaten. It has been 34 years, but Carlson remembers every terrible detail.

"He beat him to death with a paperweight and a ball-point hammer, all the while saying, 'die you bastard, why don't you die,'" Carlson said. "And Frank died. He then had Annette to himself for six and eight hours and did unspeakable things to her."

Carlson is forced to remember over and over again because of the frequency of parole hearings for her son's killer, Angelo Pavageau. He is serving life with the possibility of parole.

"I've been to 11 parole hearings; two in San Quentin and nine at Vacaville Medical Center," Carlson said. "I will be going again for the 12th time in 2011."

Prop. 9 would spare Carlson some of that agony. It would allow authorities to increase the number of years between parole hearings to 15 years.

Attorney Keith Wattley, of the firm Uncommon Law, opposes the initiative; partially because he says longer prison terms would end up costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.

"If you have older prisoners denied parole 15 years at a time, they become sicker, obviously older and they cost a lot more to house," Wattley said. "And you have more and more people."

The ballot measure would expand victims' legal rights and give them more opportunity for input during the criminal justice process. It would also allow more people to attend and testify on behalf of victims at parole hearings.

"It's only expanding what we already have, giving us one more small step that will protect us and help us," Carlson said."We're not asking for a budget line item, we're simply asking for support."

Opponents believe Prop. 9 will further erode prisoners' rights in the name of victims' rights.

"It's a hate bill; it's a vengeance bill; it's a bill put together by people who want to see prisoners suffer and suffer for longer periods of time; and they do it in the name, unfortunately of victims," Wattley said.

Opponents like Wattley say current law already protects victims and the initiative is really an attack on rehabilitation programs.

"Rehabilitation programs are actually the key to advancing public safety," he said. "This measure is all about increasing punishment and refusing to recognize that people actually have the capacity to change."


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