SACRAMENTO, Calif. – California corrections officials say they're working to improve the monitoring of released sex offenders, responding to a scathing report that cited missed chances to catch the suspect accused of holding Jaycee Dugard captive for 18 years.
The department was slammed in a report released Wednesday by state Inspector General David Shaw for its supervision of convicted sex offender Phillip Garrido, who has been charged with the abduction, rape and imprisonment of Dugard.
When Dugard was finally reunited with her family in August, police say she had spent 18 years living in a ramshackle backyard compound of tents and sheds with two daughters fathered by Garrido. Dugard repeatedly tried to conceal her identity in the hours before it was revealed, telling authorities she was hiding from an abusive husband in Minnesota and defending Garrido, the report says.
"We obviously deeply regret any error that could have possibly resulted in the victims living under these conditions for even one additional day," Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Secretary Matthew Cate said Wednesday.
He said legislation taking effect in January should help reduce caseloads and create a risk-based supervision model to ensure the most dangerous offenders receive the closest watch.
Garrido had been under parole supervision because of a 1977 conviction for raping a 25-year-old woman. He was released from prison in 1988 and placed under federal supervision until 1999, when California took over.
The report said at least six parole agents were assigned to Garrido's case during the 10 years he was being handled by California.
Shaw said the mistakes started right away, from originally classifying Garrido as a low risk offender, which meant looser controls on him, to neglecting to review his federal parole file, which revealed a federal agent had searched the secret backyard within a backyard where Dugard and the children allegedly lived. The file also contained a diagram and description of the size of Garrido's backyard.
Such mistakes by the department resulted "in the continued confinement and victimization of Jaycee and her two daughters," Shaw said, adding, "there were missed clues and opportunities to discover their existence sooner than they did."
Shaw said parole agents did not investigate visible utility lines leading to the secret compound, and said one agent did not try to confirm the identity of a young girl he saw at the house while on a visit, instead trusting Garrido's claim that she was his niece.
Shaw also faulted agents for not interviewing neighbors and following up on tips about children living in the backyard, and he skewered the department for failing to take advantage of satellite tracking technology that would have shown Garrido violated the terms of his parole by breaking a nighttime curfew and traveling farther than he was allowed to go.
Cate acknowledged "serious errors" and said the lessons learned are being implemented. He also said new legislation would focus parole supervision on high risk offenders and reduce caseloads.
He added that parole agents will be required to more routinely monitor the GPS tracking data that alerts agents of a parolee's whereabouts.
Dugard's identity was discovered when she, her daughters and Garrido and his wife went to the office of Phillip Garrido's parole agent. Dugard said her name was Alyssa. Investigators grew suspicious of the relationship between Garrido, Dugard and the daughters and separated them into different rooms, according to the report. Garrido told another agent that Dugard and the girls were his nieces.
At one point, Dugard "explained that she was from Minnesota and had been hiding for five years from an abusive husband, the report said. "She was terrified of being found, she said, and that was the reason she could not give the parole agent any information."
Garrido eventually told the parole agent he had kidnapped and raped Dugard, the report said, an account later confirmed by Dugard, who then identified herself.
Garrido and his wife, Nancy Garrido, have pleaded not guilty to 29 counts related to Dugard's disappearance. Their next court appearance is Dec. 11.