Bait-and-Switch Effort Nets Parolee Arrests for CA


Agents with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation have used a time-honored ploy—with a few modern twists—to lure dozens of parole violators back into custody.

The elaborate sting was aimed at parolees who have either stopped checking in with their parole officers, are suspected in new crimes, or have otherwise violated the terms of their parole. Corrections officials sent letters to 2,700 relatives of the parolees, advising them that they were eligible not only for amnesty, but also for a $200 reward.

The scheme was believable, say officials, because it capitalized on a real state law that took effect at the beginning of the year. This law created a new, non-revocable parole status for offenders who are considered to be less dangerous. Once a parolee is put on non-revocable status, they do not have to report to parole agents, are free to come and go as they please, and won’t be sent back to prison unless they are convicted of a new crime. The state implemented this program in order to save money in the wake of a fiscal shortfall, and it is expected to save $200 million on the first year alone.

Fugitives who received notification that they were “pre-qualified for Amnesty or Discharge,” were told that they would be put on non-revocable parole or discharged from parole altogether, to help the state cut costs associated with its corrections and rehabilitation program.

In addition to the letters that were mailed, a Web site, email address and an agent posing as an “amnesty program director” were also established. The Web site advised the parolees-at-large that the program would end Saturday, and that they should call for reservations.

Over 100 felons showed up at a parole office in Oakland, and were told to wait in an auditorium until they could consult with a counselor. When they parolees were called, one at a time, they were arrested and taken to the Alameda County Jail. Eighty-one parolees in total were taken back into custody; most of them are suspects in additional crimes or have other outstanding warrants.

“We’ve chosen to focus on the real bad apples,” said Oscar Hidalgo, a spokesperson for the department.

Partway into the process of arresting the parolees who had shown up to claim their amnesty, word began to trickle back to the auditorium that the offer was in fact a sting. A dozen or more parolees escaped before officers were able to arrest the remaining people in the auditorium.


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