Numerous prisoners were subjected to flawed psychological evaluations, and Board of Parole Hearings commissioners are insufficiently trained to detect the oversight, according to a report issued by the Inspector General.
The report responded to state Senate Rules Committee concerns. The report concluded factual errors may exist in psychological evaluations, and there are sometimes inconsistent risk assessments by different doctors.
The parole board is responsible for determining whether prisoners serving life sentence with the possibility of parole can safely re-enter society. Psychological evaluations are one of several factors that commissioners consider in making parole decisions
The Inspector General found that the parole board lacks reliable data to determine the number of factual errors contained in psychological evaluations. The IG also said the board lacks reliable data to determine the number of low-, medium- and high-risk assessment conclusions.
In a test sample of 35 prisoners given hearings in 2009, the parole board reported between one and four factual errors in each of the psychological evaluations.
Mixed Up the Prisoner With Someone Else
The report cited two examples of factually erroneous evaluations. In the first example, a prisoner’s attorney said at the hearing, “[The prisoner] has indicated to me that there are several gross inaccuracies in the psychological report, to the extent to which [the prisoner] believes that the clinician actually confused [the prisoner] with someone else.”
In the other example, the prisoner’s attorney expressed concerns about the prisoner’s psychological evaluation and said, “One of the things that stands out as rather significant is there’s reference to another inmate on this report.”
In neither of these cases were the errors reported, as policy dictates.
The Inspector General also found weaknesses in the parole board’s oversight of the methods it uses to review psychological evaluations. It also reported inadequate training for parole board members and psychologists who evaluate inmates.
The document is, “SPECIAL REPORT: The Board of Parole Hearings Psychological Evaluations and Mandatory Training Requirements,” authored by David R. Shaw, Inspector General. It was forwarded to Matthew L. Cate, secretary of California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation on July 1, 2010.
The complete report can be found online @ www.oig.ca.gov. —Juan Haines contributed to this story.