'Ski Mask Rapist' could be eligible for parole

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- The notorious 'Ski Mask Rapist,' who was originally sentenced to 406 years in prison in 1989 is now making his case for parole.

George Anthony Sanchez, a former San Jose sewer worker, was convicted of raping 25 women in and around nine South Bay communities between 1984 and 1987. He has been serving his sentence at the Correctional Training Facility in Soledad, but a relatively new state law could lead to an early release.

California's 'Elderly Release Program' offers parole hearings to state prisoners who are 60 or older and have served at least 25 years in prison. Sanchez, 58, went in for an early hearing Wednesday under a special circumstance because he committed most of his crimes before the age of 26. As a result, the state granted him status as a youthful offender.

The victims ages ranged from 16 to 83. In a recent interview with The Mercury News, one victim said: "I thought he had no chance at parole. I will do anything in the world to keep that from happening. I'll go to every parole hearing. I will do whatever it takes to keep him in prison."

Prison reform advocates believe the program, which was adopted in 2014 and formally put into law two years ago, is a practical and cost-effective solution to ease prison overcrowding. It's also to prevent the state from providing expensive in-custody care for people too frail to pose a danger.

The inmates who typically don't qualify are ones serving life sentences without parole or those who are currently on death row.

From the start of the program in February 2014 through June 2019, 28 percent of 3,618 hearings resulted in an inmate being granted parole, according to a spokesperson from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The rest were denied or deemed unsuitable.
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