Group says abuse not considered when women are up for parole

The Associated Press
Wednesday May 23, 2001

SACRAMENTO — In 1996 Theresa Azhocar was sure her daughter, who was convicted of planning to shoot her abusive boyfriend, would finally be released from prison. 

California legislators had just passed a law directing the Board of Prison terms to consider a woman’s history of abuse during sentencing, pardon or parole. 

Five years later, Azhocar is still waiting. So are the relatives of hundreds of women whose crimes are connected with battered women’s syndrome. Just two woman have been paroled under terms of the 1996 law, including one who was released Tuesday. 

Azhocar was among those who testified Tuesday at a hearing by the Board of Prison Terms, which is only now drafting guidelines to carry out the law. 

The law’s passage “gave me hope” said Azhocar, who lives in Chula Vista. “But it just sat in me because nothing has happened. The parole board has the ability to reduce a sentence. I plead with them to have compassion.” 

The hearing was the first step toward setting guidelines for paroling women under the law, said Steve Green, a spokesman for the Youth and Adult Correctional Agency. 

Green acknowledged the process to implement the law “has been slow and should have been done long before this.” He was unable to predict when the guidelines would take effect. 

The bill’s author, state Sen. Sheila Kuehl, said the board “has given very minimum lip service” to the law. 

“I was very impatient and disappointed that after a number of years passed following the signing of my bill, virtually nothing was done to carry out the different sections of the bill,” she said outside the hearing. 

Diana Block, a spokeswoman for the California Coalition for Women Prisoners, said she was encouraged by the steps the board has taken and hoped the result would be “more than just paper guidelines.” 

Meanwhile, Azhocar hopes her daughter, Theresa Roxanne Cruz, will soon be paroled after 11 years in prison in Corona. Convicted for conspiracy to commit murder in 1990, she has been denied parole three times. 

Cruz was convicted for her role a shooting that left her former boyfriend with five bullet wounds in his leg. One of the two men accused of carrying out the shooting also was convicted in the case. 

Azhocar said her daughter was so terrified of the ex-boyfriend that she slept with a phone on her chest because he used to beat her and threaten her. 

Cruz’s next parole hearing is set for September 2001. 

Paroled Tuesday was Diann Wade, 56, who had served 21 years at the Central California Women’s Facility at Chowchilla for first-degree murder. 

Wade, a prostitute from Los Angeles, was convicted in the 1980 slaying of her abusive pimp. The man was shot when Wade and two accomplices went to his apartment to beat him up, Green said.