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Mass. Parole Rate Questioned At Hearing

Massachusetts Parole Board Chairman Joshua Wall says the board has established guidelines to make more informed decisions but some are concerned too few prisoners are being paroled.

The Governor's Council, which vets Gov. Deval Patrick's parole board nominees, questioned Wall Wednesday about the board's composition, goals and its release of 39 percent of eligible prisoners from state prisons so far in 2011.

Some council members said they were concerned that the rate, which was 58 percent in 2010, suggests a change in tone of the board. Some said too many members had law enforcement backgrounds and worried prisoners are not getting a fair chance at supervised release.

"There has been a change in the demeanor and mindset of the Parole Board that more resembles a retrial of the case," said Councilor Thomas Merrigan.

Wall, who was appointed this year along with five others, said the board is focused on making fair, fact-based decisions regardless of statistics. And he says the board remains willing to give inmates second chances.

"They're acting in good faith, they are on top of their issues, they want to be on top of their issues, they want to work, they don’t want to commit new crimes. Those people are being paroled," Wall said.

The new board took office in the aftermath of the fatal shooting of a Woburn police officer by a repeat offender who had been paroled.

With reporting by The Associated Press and the WBUR Newsroom

This program aired on August 17, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.

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