Jennifer Shaffer – 2022
Hello everyone, David here with some errant thoughts…
It’s September 9th, 2022, 3 days after my birthday.
We’re fast approaching our third seminar of 2022 after 2-plus years of CoVid staying at home. I love doing the seminars because I get to meet so many of you and connect with the things we have in common. I love the opportunity to foster hope in the hearts of family members of currently incarcerated loved ones. It truly is amazing.
As many of you know, we always do our first seminar in a series at home, in Sacramento. When we do, for several years now Jennifer Shaffer has been willing to speak AND allow us to videotape her presentations. We then share that at successive seminars. It’s always a highlight of the day-long presentation.
This year’s Shaffer presentation was entitled, “The Reality of Releasing 10,000 Life Term prisoners”. And it is a bit of a rich history lesson for us. Vanessa has written a synopsis of the highlights in this video, in a document I have attached.
A couple of the parallels I took note of were, first, that in 1999 there were only thirteen grants of parole and all thirteen were reversed. No life term prisoners were released that year. I had been down about 10 years at that time. I remember quite clearly when I arrived at Old Folsom in 1990 I was told life term prisoners didn’t get paroled, and this seemed to be the proof. In contrast, last year over 1,400 life term prisoners were released and Jennifer’s statistics show that over 10,000 were released in the last 10 years. Quite a change from 1999.
Ms. Shaffer used a PowerPoint in her presentation that she had used to address the International Conference of Paroling Authorities. It seems California continues to be a global trendsetter in some arenas. This International Conference of Paroling Authorities was interested in hearing about how this new trend (paroling Life Term prisoners) was progressing. And just so you know, it seems to be progressing very well. Recidivism of paroled life term prisoners remains by far the lowest among all parole cohorts. You can see the figures in the highlights document attached.
I had a front row seat to the shift. I was incarcerated from August 8th, 1989 to February 4th, 2013. I remember being amazed in 2008 when there were something like 236 grants of parole in a single year due to In Re: Lawrence and some other factors. It was about that time this red-headed woman started ringing a bell that stated, “Recidivism of Life Term prisoners is less than 1%” and “The safest people to let out are those who have the smallest chance of recidivism… (life Term Prisoners)” That bell continues to ring in the legislature to this day, and it would seem not just in California but through California to be heard globally.
She wasn’t the only voice, but she was for sure front and center. And we knew we had gotten some traction when we heard a California Legislator repeat one of our slogans, “California can no longer afford to vengeance as public policy.”
We have a magnet hanging on our refrigerator that says, “Well behaved women seldom make history.” And history has proven that to be true. Some may not agree, or be willing to admit it, but I know in my heart that the bell Vanessa Nelson-Sloane began to ring back in 2008 has been heard globally. One person CAN make a difference.
If you’re interested in seeing the whole video, see if you can make it to one of the two remaining seminars of the season. Bay area, September 24th or San Diego October 22nd. You can register on our website at:
or email us at: email@example.com