Parole Board Becomes Censor Board - Rapper Could Be Sent Back To Jail For Lyrical Content

By Todd Weise toddw@theroc.org and David R. Parvo

Last year in a Sacramento, CA park a gang flare-up resulted in fatality when local rapper, C-BO, fired shots into the air to allegedly stop the fight. C-BO was convicted of illegal use of a firearm and sentenced to serve 15 months in prison. He is now free on parole but may soon face the other side of the iron bars once again if California prison officials find his lyrics to be controversial. C-BO's new album, "Til my Casket Drops" released on March 10th on Awol Records tells the all too familiar tales of life on the street an depicts the all too REAL dangers of living such a life. For C-BO, telling those tales could land him back to Soledad Prison if his parole board finds that his lyrics "promote gang violence [or] the gang lifestyle" or are "anti-law enforcement" in nature. According to California Corrections Department spokesman Tip Kendell, C-BO's "criminal past excludes him from First Amendment protections."

"The parole agent will have to take a look at that album and make a decision", according to Henry J. Peralta, regional parole administrator of the California Department of Corrections. "If there's enough to make us feel there is a problem, he may be subject to revocation of his parole." C-BO admits to being a former gang member but insists that his music only paints a picture of that former life. "Gang lifestyle exists with or without me or my music. To acknowledge it as a part of our society is not necessarily to promote the lifestyle. I no longer live it, but it is a realistic part of my music and means to earn a living," said C-BO.

Henry J. Paralta is abusing his authority by placing this "gag order" on C-BO and makes this fact clear in his written denial for C-BO's appeal last year: "As a convicted felon on parole, it is in the best interest of the public that you not engage in behavior that promotes gang violence, the gang lifestyle or criminal behavior of violence against law enforcement. A review of your lyrics . . . prior to your commitment to prison [does] reflect the promotion of such behavior." Marcia Morrissey, once successful defender for Snoop Doggy Dogg calls this outrageous, "It really is such a vague condition as to be unenforceable. . . . [The goal of the parole system] is to try to impose conditions that will prevent people from re-offending, both for their sake and the community's. But muzzling this young man . . . saying he can't talk about certain subjects doesn't help him avoid crime."

Rock Out Censorship agrees and contends that gangsta rap is one of the best illustrating examples of why one should NOT join gang life! When the music reflects the violent reality of that lifestyle, it can do as much to deter people from choosing that path as authorities claim it promotes the lifestyle. The California Department of Corrections doesn't seem to realize that silencing those who "tell it like it is" will NOT make crime suddenly vanish, but WILL make it worse! This appears to be more of an attack on a form of music than any legitimate interest in preventing future crime. A parole board's responsibility is to help criminals retake a valued place in society, not to dictate what they can or cannot say. One way to make them a viable part of society is to allow them to make a living. An asanine decision such as this would take that inherent right away from this man.

Some good news, however! On March 8, 1998, California prison officials dropped the most serious parole violation charge of expressing himself. He still remains jailed for travelling over 50 miles outside of Sacramento city limits. Please contact the officials at The California Department of Corrections and tell them that any further attempts to ignore the First Amendment will not be tolerated and that free speech is the right of EVERYONE!

Thom McConnell
Executive Director, B.O.C.
916-323-8508
bothom@bdcorr.ca.gov

CDC-Parole Division
411 E. Canon Perdido
Suite 15
Santa Barbara, CA 93101
805-564-7748 OR 916-255-2758

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