by Kiilu Nyasha and Claude Marks
The California Parole Board held a parole hearing for Hugo Pinell (Yogi) on January 14 at
which they denied him parole and scheduled him to return to the board in 15 years!
Previous denials had been no more than two years, an earlier one five years. So what has changed?
In November, the last state election, voters passed Proposition 9. Under Proposition, 9 people serving
indeterminate life sentences who come up before the Parole Board are denied parole, could be denied a
subsequent hearing for up to 15 years. Prop 9 increases the time between parole hearings for life-term
convicts from 1-5 years to 3-15 years, for no good reason. Proposition 9 argued that people convicted of
serious crimes are being released from prison easily and frequently. This simply is not the case. At
present, about 30,000 people are serving life sentences. Approximately 4,000 of those apply for parole
each year, going before a two-member panel for a parole recommendation. Only about 2 percent are given a
favorable decision, and of those, the governor rejects two-thirds. Thus, less than 1 percent receives release
dates in a given year. As an example, in 2006, only 23 prisoners with indeterminate sentences were granted
parole, less than 0.5 percent of those eligible for release.
Hugo Pinell has been in Pelican Bay SHU (no phone calls, no contact visits, isolation 24/7, no windows or
natural light, very restricted possessions, visits limited to less than an hour and only on weekends/holidays
with him in a "phone booth.") 19 years. He was in other California lockups (SQ, Folsom, Corcoran) for 38 years,
and in prison a total of 45. He's had clean time (no write-ups) for 25 years.
Pelican Bay is isolated in the Northwest corner of California, a very long trip by car (the only means). His
mother, now 87, has health problems but has continued to make that long trip to visit her son, now 64 years old.
Can you even imagine how she'll react to this horrible news?
Georgia (California Prison Focus) called from Pelican Bay to say that Yogi's
handling it well although he's very sad, understandably, and very worried about his mom.
Georgia tells me that this denial of 15 years is not legal. But since when did they give a damn about legal?!
We have to stop this in its tracks. This is absolutely outrageous!
Thanks to Kiilu for most of this!