By Don Chaddock, Inside CDCR editor
Photos compiled by Eric Owens, CDCR Staff Photographer
Office of Public and Employee Communications
(Editor’s note: This is part of an ongoing series exploring the history of CDCR and the final installment of the history of parole.)
The woman credited with creating the state parole system in 1893 was tasked with helping oversee the system nearly 20 years later.
First woman appointed to the board
Clara Foltz, often called the “lady lawyer” in the press, was appointed to the State Board of Charities and Corrections by the governor in 1910. As mentioned earlier, she drafted the original parole bill and helped push through its passage.
“Mrs. Clara Shortridge Foltz, recently appointed by Governor Gillett to membership on the State Board of Charities and Corrections, holds a unique place in the history of jurisprudence in this state. She was the first woman to be admitted to the bar of California after a strenuous legal battle which battered down ancient prejudices and opened doors of Hastings’ law school (connected with the state university), to women students and permitted of their admission to practice in this state. In 1893, she represented the San Francisco bar at the international congress of jurisprudence and law reform, held … in Chicago. … She (also) framed the bill which became a law establishing the present prison parole system. … Her name is familiar in the highest court of the United States, as well as in England,” reported the Los Angeles Herald on March 13, 1910.
She was also sworn in as the first woman deputy district attorney in Los Angeles County.
The Herald, on April 26, 1910, reported on her accomplishment.
“The honor of being the first of her sex in California to be numbered among public prosecutors was conferred on Mrs. Foltz yesterday morning when she appeared in the supervisors’ room accompanied by District Attorney John D. Fredericks, and took the oath of office. Well may the brigands of the Calabasas hills retreat within their lairs, for Mrs. Foltz, besides being a lawyer of recognized acumen, is an orator of no mean ability and once convinced a Jury of twelve males that a woman had a perfect right to go through her husband’s pockets and confiscate the bank roll.”
In 1928, newspapers across the country published front page stories on a series of murders at a small three-acre ranch near Riverside and a manhunt reaching across the nation’s border.
“Northcott lad admits crimes,” declared the headline of the Dec. 4, 1928, edition of the Prescott Evening Courier. “Ranch called ‘human butcher shop’ by youth; He accused all of family.”
Gordon Stewart Northcott and his mother, Louise Northcott, were convicted of the murders after they were apprehended in Canada. The younger Northcott admitted he killed five young boys at the family ranch. His mother admitted to killing one of those five, 9-year-old Walter Collins, and was sentenced to life in prison. According to the son, a total of nine people were murdered. The property was dubbed “the murder farm” and “death ranch” in the press.
The young Northcott refused to say who killed the other four. “If anyone else out there wants to tell what they’ve done, it’s up to them,” he told the newspaper.
Later, he was charged with a total of 11 murders and sentenced to death.
In 1936, retiring San Quentin Warden James Holohan wrote a memoir about his time as the head of the state’s oldest prison. His book, titled “My San Quentin Years,” had a passage on Northcott.
“Everything this 22-year-old boy did was melodramatic. Hoping to forestall the hanging, he gave us a ‘map’ purporting to show where the bodies of 16 murdered boys were buried. I sent guards to the scene. They found Northcott was lying,” he wrote.
He was executed in 1930.
Louise, also known as Sarah Louisa Northcott, served the early part of her sentence in the same prison as her son, prior to the opening of the first women’s prison.
She was paroled in 1939.
“Mrs. Louise Northcott, convicted of the murder of … Walter Collins on a Riverside county chicken ranch in 1928 and sentenced to life imprisonment, will be paroled from the women’s prison at Tehachapi, Jan. 1, 1939,” reported the Desert Sun on Nov. 19, 1937. “The parole board acted favorably on her petition and decided to release the 73-year-old woman to her husband, George Northcott, in Kutztown, Pa. … The (Northcott) trial was one of the most sensational in California history.”
From the early days of a single parole officer, the division evolved into a statewide network of agents. The division also adapted with the times.
“For the past several months, the clerical staff, parole agents and supervisors … have been working hand in hand developing a data processing system that will eventually benefit everyone,” Parole Administrator Howard Loy wrote in 1986. “They are creating something new and working the bugs out. This type of system has never been tried in any state. … The staff in San Diego 1 and 3 are creating a system that will modernize parole operations.”
Administrator Loy wrote about the impact emerging technology, such as computers, was about to have on the department.
“As you leave your office to make field contacts, you pick up your portable computer so that you will be able to have all of your information with you,” he wrote. “A field book is no longer needed and scraps of paper are a thing of the past. …. Sound like a movie in the future? Well, it’s not. …. Some of the concepts (are) not here yet, but the Parole Division is moving quickly toward a system which will bring information, electronically, to the fingertips of all staff.”
People of note
Roberto “Bob” Sanchez, Parole Administrator II at Headquarters, became the first department employee to complete the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run, held July 6-7, 1985. The race began at Squaw Valley at 5 a.m. and crossed the Sierra Nevada, ending in Auburn. He made the run in 28 hours and 30 minutes.
Midge Carroll was appointed assistant deputy director in 1985 of what was then known as the Parole and Community Services Division. Previously, she was warden of California Institution for Men. She joined the department in 1966.
Ed Veit was appointed the deputy director of the department’s Parole and Community Services Division on April 18, 1985. He was a U.S. Navy veteran who served during World War II and did a tour of duty during the Korean conflict. He was also a Los Angeles County deputy sheriff in 1950, became a correctional officer at Folsom State Prison in 1960 and a parole agent in 1964. Later, from 1971-73, he served as the executive officer of the Board of Corrections. In 1973, he became the assistant deputy director for the parole division. He retired in 1989 and passed away in 2012.
Doris Masini retired in 1986 after working 42 years for the department. She wasn’t an agent, but a staff services analyst. In October 1943, she walked into the Region II parole office and applied for a clerical position. Hired to work in the San Francisco office, she remained there her entire career. “She has served 10 Chief State Parole Officers, now titled Deputy Directors of Parole, and six directors of the (department),” Correction News reported in February 1986. “Masini’s 42 years with the division is an all-time record.”
State Parole Officers/Agents
Edward H. Whyte
Thomas H. Pendergast
John J. Cullen
Charles C. Coxe
Joseph B. Brennan
William T. Byrnes
Clark T. Sullivan
James J. Kenny
Walter T. Stone
Stillman C. Moore
Robert R. Miller
Robert Del Pesco
Vern E. Maynard
Robert E. Seabridge
Thomas E. Wilson
Stilson E. Whiteside
Oscar F. Grebner
Jerome J. Higgins
C. Earl Halderman
George W. Kavaney
Major D. Dale
Mary E. Brown
Ev oynne Byrne
Mae De Noyelles
Walter A. Gordon Jr.
Nancy J. Jenkins
Helen D. LaVigne
John Mac Gregor
Mary E. McCarthy
Florence A. McKee
Carl F. Oneil