In California, all determinate prison sentences must include a period of parole. Once such a prison sentence is completed, individuals are usually subject to 3 or 5 years of parole, which is defined as a period of supervised release imposed on all inmates upon their release from prison. However, persons sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole are not automatically released on parole. Rather, they are first entitled to be considered for parole at a special suitability hearing held by the Board of Parole Hearings one year prior to their minimum eligible parole date. If the Board determines that a prisoner is suitable for parole, it will set a release date. Otherwise, it will set a subsequent hearing the following year to determine whether a prisoner may be suitable for parole at a later time.
The critical issue during life parole suitability hearings is whether a prisoner should be released from custody. In making a parole-suitability determination, the focus is made on some evidence supporting the core statutory determination that a prisoner remains currently dangerous and present a threat to public safety. The Board examines an inmate’s commitment offense, prior social and criminal history, the prison disciplinary record and physiological reports, and input from the public. Thus, in order to deny parole, the facts presented at the suitability hearing must demonstrate that an inmate poses a current threat to public safety, rather than merely some evidence suggesting the existence of a statutory factor of unsuitability.
A California rule that parole must be granted to eligible prisoner, absent “some evidence” that prisoner’s release would create undue risk of danger to society, creates a liberty interest protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. As a result, the decision of the hearing panel or the state governor is subject to judicial review. Where a parole denial decision is not based on “some evidence” of current dangerousness, such liberty interest in parole gives prisoners the right to a re-consideration of the denial by a different parole board.
This office handles “lifer” hearings. For a free consultation, contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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