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Dugard case: Is California's parole system overstretched?

Jaycee's abductor was a parolee, Phillip Garrido. His story is now framing the debate about how the state should relieve overcrowded prisons, and who should be watched most closely.

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Criminal charges against a parolee in the abduction of Jaycee Lee Dugard have added fuel to arguments from some California Republicans and law enforcement groups opposed to changes in the state's parole system.

But criminal justice experts say the arrest of Phillip Garrido, a registered sex offender who was under GPS monitoring, for Ms. Dugard's 1991 abduction is just one example of why the state's parole system needs to be overhauled.

"Those cases are proof of why you need greater supervision for high-risk people. The system is too lenient on the most violent and too harsh on people who would literally not be on parole at all in other states," says Joan Petersilia, a professor of criminology at Stanford University and author of "When Prisoners Come Home: Parole and Prisoner Reentry."

On Monday the California State Assembly passed its version of a prison reform bill designed to reduce inmate populations in the state's overcrowded penitentiaries and cut prison spending. While the Assembly removed some of the provisions in the Senate bill, parole reform remained intact.

"It's pretty monumental what California is doing to its parole system," says Professor Petersilia. "Everyone will continue to go on parole but only 40 percent will go on real parole," she says. The rest would get what she calls 'parole-light.' "

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