California is one of only three states -- along with Oklahoma and Maryland -- that give governors veto power over parole.
Some say such authority provides society an extra measure of protection.
But others say it can politicize the task of deciding which inmates should go free, because some governors fear a paroled criminal will commit a new crime and ruin their political future.
The classic case in point is Willie Horton, the Massachusetts murderer who raped a woman while on a weekend furlough when Michael Dukakis was governor of Massachusetts. In the 1988 presidential race, then-Vice President George Bush, among others, used the Horton episode to bash Dukakis, contributing to the Democrat's defeat.
Lawyers for inmates said they hoped Schwarzenegger would be less sensitive to such political risks.
"This is a very good sign," said Cheryl Montgomery, a Sacramento attorney who has handled parole board cases for years.
"I hope this means he realizes that the parole commissioners are not pushovers, not marshmallows. They are very, very selective about who they recommend for parole, so the governor should let them do their job," she said.