Capitol Alert

Jaycee Dugard opposing Jerry Brown’s prison reform initiative

One of California’s most famous kidnap victims is opposing a parole overhaul backed by Gov. Jerry Brown that would make more inmates eligible for early release.

Jaycee Dugard, who spent 18 years in confinement after being kidnapped by Phillip and Nancy Garrido, wrote on Facebook that she fears Proposition 57 could speed the release of former criminals.

“I do not pretend to be knowledgeable about the ins and outs of this proposition but am horrified at the thought that Nancy Garrido could get out and victims like those the JAYC Foundation helps weekly will have to live in fear. Criminals who do these despicable acts are often masterminds about how to work the system,” she wrote, referencing the nonprofit organization she leads that helps kidnapping victims.

Phillip Garrido was on parole for a 1976 kidnapping and rape when he and his wife abducted Dugard in South Lake Tahoe. Dugard was 11 at the time. In 2011, Phillip Garrido was sentenced to 431 years in prison, and Nancy Garrido got a 36-year sentence. Prosecutors at the time said Nancy Garrido, then 55, would not be eligible for parole until she was in her 80s.

Dugard and her children have received a $20 million settlement from the state. She was rescued in 2009 after Phillip Garrido took her to a meeting with his parole officer.

Brown’s Proposition 57 aims to thin California’s prison population by restoring authority to parole boards and by giving inmates incentives to pursue rehabilitation. Initiative supporters say only inmates convicted of nonviolent offenses would be eligible to apply for early release.

It’s opposed by many of the state’s district attorneys and sheriffs, who contend the initiative would make certain sex offenders and other criminals eligible for parole. Their campaign mailers show convicted, violent criminals under the heading “meet your new neighbor.”

“The opposition is either misinformed or deliberately trying to scare voters with falsehoods. The fact is, sex offenders will be absolutely ineligible for parole under Prop 57,” said Dan Newman, a spokesman for Brown’s initiative. “Only very carefully screened non-violent offenders who have completed their primary sentence will be allowed to apply for parole before a board of retired law enforcement professionals who will reject the parole of anyone who is a risk to public safety.”

El Dorado County District Attorney Vern Pierson, who prosecuted the Garridos, has pointed to Dugard several times over the past year to argue against Brown’s initiative.

In May, his office learned that Phillip Garrido could be eligible for early release in 2034 through an elderly parole program, according to a notice his office from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation in May. He doubts a parole board would ever allow Phillip Garrido to leave prison, but he said Dugard should not have to appear at hearings to oppose his release.

“It is not an insignificant thing for a woman who was kidnapped as a child and victimized repeatedly, sexually assaulted, to have to be in the same room as him to oppose his release. That is a very significant flaw in what the governor is trying to do,” Pierson said.

Adam Ashton: 916-321-1063, @Adam_Ashton