Parole board to set minimums for lifers

State corrections officials agreed Monday to a major change in California’s parole system that could lead to earlier releases for parole-eligible lifers. The settlement stems from a legal action filed by a prisoner at Soledad, who was sentenced to 15 years to life for a 1987 murder and claimed that his parole application was routinely and unjustifiably denied for 10 years.

Under the settlement — approved Monday by state Court of Appeal Justice J. Anthony Kline in San Francisco — the state Board of Parole Hearings is required to establish, based on the circumstances of the crime, the minimum time that should be served before an inmate is released. For inmates to be held beyond that minimum, a parole board must demonstrate why they are a danger to the public.

Until now, parole commissioners waited until after prisoners were found suitable for release before calculating a minimum sentence. By then, many inmates had overstayed that minimum.

The policy change could affect the time served of nearly 35,000 inmates — one out of four of those in California’s crowded prisons — who received maximum life sentences with the possibility of parole.

As reported in the Los Angeles Times.