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L.A. County urges curbs on state prisoner transfers to counties

The supervisors want to keep inmates with serious criminal histories under state supervision. The action was prompted by a multiple murder case in Northridge.

December 11, 2012|By Abby Sewell, Los Angeles Times
  • After a shooting earlier this month at this Northridge home, L.A. County supervisors called Tuesday for new legislation.
After a shooting earlier this month at this Northridge home, L.A. County… (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times )

A multiple homicide outside a Northridge boardinghouse has prompted Los Angeles County supervisors to call for legislation that would prevent state prisoners with a serious criminal history from being released to county supervision.

Realignment — intended to help the state meet a federal mandate to reduce its prison population — requires that some felons convicted of nonviolent offenses serve their time in county jails rather than state prison. It has also resulted in some inmates being released to county supervision instead of state parole.

Currently, only the offender's most recent crime is considered when determining who is eligible for realignment. Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said Tuesday that he wants the county to pursue legislation that would require the offender's complete criminal past to be considered.

"It is a loophole big enough to drive a Sherman tank through," Yaroslavsky said of the current law.

Ka Pasasouk, a suspect in the killing of four people last week, was released to county probation after serving a prison sentence for unlawful taking of a vehicle. But his previous criminal history included a 2006 conviction for second-degree robbery and assault likely to produce great bodily injury.

While on probation, Pasasouk was arrested on suspicion of drug possession, and the Probation Department asked a judge to send him back to state prison. Instead, he was sent to a drug diversion program at the recommendation of prosecutors who erroneously told the judge he was eligible for the program. He later failed to report to his probation officer.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said in a statement that the Northridge shootings "should not be used to perpetuate myths regarding realignment."

"Pasasouk would have been released from prison at the same time with or without realignment, whether or not he had a previous record of violent crime," the statement said. "…There should not be a difference in quality between state parole and county probation."

County Probation Chief Jerry Powers said that he did not believe the outcome would have been different if Pasasouk had been under parole supervision.

"The guy was an absconder. He had absconded on parole multiple times," he said.

Yaroslavsky acknowledged that he could not say with certainty that the killings would have been prevented had Pasasouk been under parole supervision.

But, he said, "my argument has been that the parole department of the state is far better trained and equipped and experienced in dealing with people who have committed serious crimes." Parole officers, for instance, carry guns, while probation officers in most cases do not.

The county supervisors also directed the Probation Department to prepare an in-depth report on Pasasouk's history and his interactions with agencies at all levels of government.

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