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Hey Matt,

With baseball season just around the corner I thought you could shed a little light on something that’s been bugging me for years. Why in God’s name do baseball managers dress like the players? No other coaches in any sport don uniforms. I’ve never seen one throw a pitch, snag a fly ball, or belt one out of the park in my 61 years on this Earth. Are they just wannabes, has beens, or just can’t let go of their days of glory?

— Fred Kohler, Oceanside

I hope my answer satisfies your 61-year wait. Ehhh...probably won’t. Back in baseball’s infancy, the “manager” was the guy in the suit who handled the money, the “captain” was a uniformed team member and the guy who handled game strategies and kicking dirt on the umpire. Eventually, the captain became the team’s “manager,” but the uni didn’t change, even though they weren’t active players anymore. One notable exception was Connie Mack, manager of the Phillies in the ’40s, who strode moundward in his three-piece suit. There aren’t any MLB rules about what a manager wears. So why, when “captains” became “managers,” didn’t they change clothes? Um...what’s baseball without tradition? Some point out that baseball is the only sport in which a team manager routinely goes out onto the playing field, which may have helped the tradition stick.


I’ve heard, from competent authority, that remorse or confession is no longer a requirement for parole. It would be interesting to know just how parole boards make decisions, and how much they are governed by rules, politics, and personal judgment.

— Twister, Reader blogpost

This is a snippet from a larger blogversation about criminal sentencing and the death penalty. I asserted that at a parole hearing, an inmate must admit to his/her crime and express some sort of remorse. If not, parole is unlikely to be granted. Twister politely disagreed. I promised to look into it. In reply, my competent authorities are a lawyer who specializes in parole law and a friend of Grandma’s who’s been through the system. More than once. Yes, I know, you’re shocked that sweet, pie-baking Grandma hangs out with that slice of life. Get over it. We have. We just watch the silverware when he visits.

Caveat: 1. We address only California law and state crimes. 2. Many exceptions apply, but I can’t write a novelette. 3. Parole is not probation; we’re not talking about probation. Okay, so, the vast majority of those who appear at a “suitability [for a parole date] hearing” are inmates with indeterminate life sentences — e.g., “15 years to life” or “life with the possibility of parole.” Inmates with determinate sentences (e.g., five years for robbery) can be (and usually are) given a parole date without having to defend themselves before a board.

Once a bad guy has served the determinate portion of his life sentence (e.g., 15 years), he is eligible for a hearing. “Life with the possibility of parole,” a sentence that has no determinate component, generally allows an inmate a hearing after serving 7 years. Parole boards are governed by laws, but for the most part, these laws apply to inmate-hearing eligibility and timing and to the terms of his/her parole, if it’s granted. The middle process — evaluating an inmate’s testimony at the board hearing — is mostly up to the conscience, knowledge, and experience of the three board members, some of whom are appointed by the governor, some of whom are civil servants.

So, what goes on in the mind of a parole board member? Obviously, they’re sworn to protect the general population, first and foremost. They have to balance this with inmate rights. But both my experts say that an inmate’s “insight and remorse” are key to a board’s decision. Do you understand what you’ve done, can you explain why you did it, and are you remorseful? But this isn’t mandated by law. Boards also consider details of the bad guy’s crime: psychological evaluation; behavior in lock-up; discipline, rehabilitation, work history; education and life skills inventory; and plans for living and working while on parole and how successful they’re likely to be.

This does seem to put the (rare) truly innocent inmate in a pickle, having to admit to something he/she didn’t do. Grandma’s friend says, forget that idealism. You have to go into a hearing knowing the board is sure you’re guilty. You’re incarcerated; ergo, you’re guilty. Telling them you’re not guilty won’t get you anywhere except denied. This point goes back to a blog comment about Craig Peyer being a pretty hopeless parole candidate, since he still insists he didn’t kill Cara Knott. He’s been denied parole, what?, three times? And, of course, every year some really bad, bad guys and gals are due for parole hearings. Everybody including the perp knows it will be denied, but the law requires the meet-and-greet. We recently voted to give parole boards the power to set a rejected inmate’s next parole hearing date as long as 15 years away. For the unfixably bad, I guess.

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Coasty March 28, 2012 @ 6:26 p.m.

Correction: Connie Mack was the manager of the Philadelphia (now Oakland) Athletics, not the Phillies, from 1900-1950.



Matthew_Alice March 31, 2012 @ 10:11 a.m.

This just in. Faithful reader John H. passed along a link to a NYTimes article on something called "decision fatigue," basically, the idea that after a day full of decisions, large and small, our decision-making ability is dulled late in the day and we pretty much don't want to make yet one more decision. The research is applied across a whole range of decision-making, from critical to not so important.

One of the statistics quoted is from a study of decisions made by parole boards. If you're a perp, make sure your hearing is scheduled for early in the day. About 70 percent of those parole hopefuls were granted their freedom. Late in the day? The figure drops to 10 percent. So, at least in this study, time of day is as big a determinant as any facts in your case.


Thx, John


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