These 10 Questions Can Mean Life Behind Bars

By Peter Aldhous, April 22, 2015, BuzzFeed News

Hersey Lelaind knew he was in trouble — just not how much trouble. He and a housemate had been on a drive, and Lelaind had been smoking pot. When they returned to their home in Vacaville, California, the sheriff’s department was waiting.

“We pull into the driveway. They draw down guns on us and tell us to get out of the car,” Lelaind said in an interview with BuzzFeed News last May. Both men were living with other parolees in a house that had been targeted for a sweep to check for violations. The cops led Lelaind, handcuffed, through the front door of the house, which had already been searched. They made him give a urine sample.

Lelaind knew he’d test positive for marijuana. But after spending the past few years bouncing in and out of jail, mostly for minor parole violations, he wasn’t afraid of another 30-day stretch. I can do that standing on my head, he thought.

That was in 2006, when Lelaind was 26 years old. He’s been kept under lock and key ever since. His problem wasn’t the drug bust itself. But the bust prompted the authorities to review Lelaind’s checkered past. As a teenager, he had been convicted for sexual abuse against a minor — and had served his time.

That fact, along with other aspects of his criminal and life history, were entered into the “Static-99,” a little-known but highly influential questionnaire that critics contend is being tragically misused. The test spit out a score that set him on the path to being locked up in a state psychiatric facility. Why? Because he might commit another crime in the future. He doesn’t know if he will ever be released.

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