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Why Was Garrido Let Loose In '88? Feds Said Rapist Had Made 'Progress'

Why did Phillip Craig Garrido serve about one-fifth of a 50-year sentence for rape — meaning he was a free man in 1991, when he allegedly kidnapped 11-year-old Jaycee Lee Dugard?

That's just one of the disturbing questions as more is known about what apparently happened in the backyard of Garrido's home near Antioch, Calif., where Dugard was allegedly forced to live for 18 years and raise two children fathered by Garrido — who along with his wife has been charged with 29 counts related to the kidnapping, rape and imprisonment of Dugard. They have pleaded not guilty.

Today the San Francisco Chronicle looks at circumstances surrounding Garrido's 1988 release from prison. Here's a key excerpt:

Authorities with the U.S. Parole Commission have declined to comment about the circumstances of Garrido's release. However, Gail Powell, a spokeswoman for the Nevada Department of Public Safety, said federal authorities at the time told the state that "his progress reports were good. I don't know the specifics, other than he was coming along nicely."

A sentencing expert said Tuesday that in those days, the commission commonly released kidnappers in 10 years or less.

The commission, appointed by the president, set guidelines for the terms of federal prisoners eligible for parole. The guidelines for a kidnapper who raped his victim, but did not hold her for ransom and had no serious criminal record — and Garrido had no previous conviction - were probably less than 10 years in prison, said Dennis Curtis, a Yale Law School professor. ...

"It goes to show you how sentences have climbed since 1984," Curtis said. "You're looking at a much harsher climate now."

On All Things Considered, NPR's Richard Gonzales reported about what Garrido's neighbors have to say:

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times' L.A. Now blog has reported about a 1976 psychological evaluation that diagnosed Garrido as a sexual deviant and about reports that some reporters are offering thousands of dollars to people in Antioch for information and photographs related to the story.

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