Massachusetts Gov. Michael S. Dukakis has been unfairly criticized by Vice President George Bush on the issue of inmate furloughs, prison experts said today, calling the program a necessary correctional tool.
Bush has repeatedly accused Dukakis of being soft on crime. The vice president cites the Massachusetts furlough program, which allowed a murderer without chance for parole to get a weekend pass and go to Maryland where he raped a woman and attacked her fiance.
“Virtually every state in the country has some kind of a furlough program,” John DiIulio, a prison expert from Princeton University, said on NBC’s “Today” program.
“The Federal Bureau of Prisons has a furlough program. Over 30 other states will furlough someone who is a murderer,” DiIulio said. “Last year, a lot of inmates who were convicted of murders were in fact furloughed from the federal system.”
DiIulio said Massachusetts and South Carolina have furloughed convicted murderers who had no chance for parole. Massachusetts has since changed that aspect of its program.
“Gov. Dukakis has taken the rap for something that everybody does,” Anthony Travisono, executive director of the American Correctional Assn., said on the same program.
“It’s not Republican-Democrat, conservative-liberal,” Travisono said. “It’s the decent thing to do. It’s like the Ivory soap commercial, which is 99 and 44 one-hundredths percent pure. Occasionally, an inmate lets us all down.”
Pointing to crowded correctional facilities nationwide, Travisono said, “The prison is more a keg of dynamite than ever before. So, the furlough system . . . is one of those rehabilitative tools that we’ve asked for and have because it gives hope and it helps the morale of inmates.”
Dukakis has countered the Bush attacks by pointing to two instances in California, while President Reagan was governor, when inmates committed murder while on furlough.
The California furlough violators were convicted for burglary-related crimes, said state Department of Corrections spokeswoman Christine May.