How Parole Officers Failed Jaycee DugardS

A report released Wednesday shows the many lapses by California parole authorities that allowed Phillip Garrido to hold Jaycee Dugard in his yard for 18 years — and the changes that need to be made so others avoid her fate.

Michael Rothfeld of the LA Times quotes from the report by Inspector General David R. Shaw, which details myriad oversights by parole agents, including the following:

— Federal parole records showed Garrido had a soundproof room in his yard, but the state never reviewed these records.
— Garrido's parole officer actually met one of his daughters with Dugard last year, but accepted the explanation that she was his niece.
— Garrido wore a satellite tracking device, but agents ignored alarms that indicated he had gone outside his allowed area or broken curfew. They also didn't investigate when the device stopped working for nine hours nearly every night for an entire month.
Parole officers didn't make all of Garrido's required home visits or perform all required drug tests, and they didn't interview witnesses who saw children on his property.

And last, but not least:
— In 1999, a parole agent misclassified Garrido as needing "only low-level supervision," a classification that enabled him to avoid more serious scrutiny all the way up to his arrest this year.

According to the report, California failed to follow parole protocols for Garrido 90% of the time — which, for those of you keeping score at home, is an F. Interestingly, California proposes to prevent future lapses like that not by cracking down further on all criminals — like, say, Miami — but by adjusting their priorities. Rothfeld writes that the state is moving to "reduce supervision on lower-risk parolees," allowing parole officers to work with smaller caseloads and devote more time to people who may turn out to be truly dangerous. As long as California can avoid further misclassifications, this sounds like a good strategy. Americans tend to respond to horrific crimes with calls for increased toughness, but the results can be measures like putting public urinators on sex offender registries — treating minor criminals like major criminals and giving men like Garrido a place to hide.

It wasn't just force that kept Jaycee Dugard prisoner for 18 years, or that kept his wife silent all that time. Garrido clearly knew how to manipulate people — so much so that when Dugard and her daughters finally appeared together before a parole agent, she initially lied to protect her captor. The state of California — and the country — will need more than across-the-board "tough on crime" measures to protect citizens from men like him. They'll need to be smart, and to distinguish between real threats and false ones — hopefully, California's reforms will allow its parole agents to do just that.

Jaycee Dugard Case Elicits Strong Criticism From California Prison Watchdog [LA Times]
Official Describes Jaycee Dugard's First Meeting With Authorities [LA Times]
Reform Vowed After Garrido's Shoddy Parole [CBS]