In a first real step toward’s statehood, the District has an opportunity to take back control of its parole function from the federal agency currently handling it. The ReThink Justice DC Coalition and the Reenty Task Force have published a set of principles for a DC parole authority to assist in its formation.
Please review these and if you agree with them, sign on to support them.
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Principles for the Creation of a New Paroling Authority
- The new paroling authority the District will create to replace the USPC (the “paroling authority”) must be local, that is, it must be fully accountable to the electorate of the District of Columbia through its elected officials, who in turn must be accountable to the people themselves. The new D.C. paroling authority ultimately derives its authority from the people of the District, to whom it is accountable.
- The new paroling authority the District will create should embody the humane, equitable approach to criminal justice articulated by the District Task Force on Jails and Justice and the values articulated by the Task Force, including a public health approach to community safety and incarceration, fairness in administration, treating all with dignity and encouraging restorative practices and trauma-informed healing-centered practices.
- The practices and procedures of the new paroling authority must be fully accessible and transparent. All rules and procedures, as well as the proceedings of the new entity, must be available to public review and scrutiny. The entity must make accurate statistical data (e.g., percentages of parole applications granted, release revocation orders, etc.), as well as the fundamental operations of the new entity fully available for public review and comment.
- To assure that the paroling authority reflects the interests of all communities, paroling authority leadership, hearing officers and staff should be drawn from all Wards of the District, including returning citizens and people who reside in Wards in which returning citizens typically reside.
- The District should establish a Citizens’ Oversight Committee or Review Panel to address community concerns and provide authentic public oversight of the paroling authority’s work.
- For parole grant applications, officials of the local paroling authority should presume parole release eligibility for those who have completed their minimum sentences. All parole-eligible D.C. prisoners have served a minimum of 20 years in prison. Absent evidence that an individual parole applicant presents a demonstrated, credible and ongoing threat to public safety or to individuals upon release, new legislation and regulations should mandate that the paroling authority order his or her release.
- In the event the paroling authority denies a parole grant application, it will schedule subsequent parole grant hearings on an annual basis and provide a statement of goals and conditions for the applicant to meet prior to the next parole hearing. The paroling authority should provide assistance to the prisoner to secure support from appropriate community resources to prepare for eventual release at a subsequent hearing.
- No arrest should be ordered for an alleged technical violation of parole or supervised release, or following release after a misdemeanor arrest or conviction, pending a revocation hearing. When CSOSA alleges a technical violation of the terms of parole or supervised release, or when a returning citizen has been charged or convicted of misdemeanor criminal offenses while on supervision, a summons for appearance at a probable cause hearing may be issued. However, arrest may only be ordered in the event a returning citizen fails to appear for a revocation probable cause hearing without appropriate extenuating circumstances.
- Following receipt of a Notice of Violation from CSOSA and a probable cause hearing, the paroling authority should evaluate the documented allegations and request any additional information from CSOSA necessary for proper evaluation of the circumstances resulting in the Notice. The paroling authority staff will determine what steps, if any, can be taken to prevent the necessity for a hearing to adjudicate revocation of parole or supervised release.
- Revocation hearings should be conducted by hearing officers drawn from the subject’s community and, when possible, by hearing officers with subject matter expertise. Paroling authority staff should include investigative or assisting staff familiar with the communities in which individuals reside and those with appropriate subject matter expertise.
- The paroling authority should make efforts to insure that each returning citizen under its jurisdiction has an adequate, realistic release plan and provide connections to community resources.
- The needs of returning citizens with disabilities, including substance abuse issues, must be recognized and addressed by the paroling authority. No person should be denied their liberty simply because they have a disability or an addiction. The paroling authority should engage CSOSA, community-based organizations and reentry service providers, as well as other subject matter experts, to help meet the needs of people with disabilities or substance abuse issues so as to avoid a revocation.
- The paroling authority must assure that, in the process of adjudicating alleged violations of parole or supervised release (during both the initial probable cause hearing and the full revocation hearings) and in the process of adjudication of requests for parole, returning citizens and D.C. prisoners are guaranteed due process rights, including but not limited to:
- A written notice of revocation that details the alleged violations.
- The right to a probable cause hearing soon after a revocation charge is initiated.
- The burden of proof to demonstrate an actionable revocation violation should be heard under the preponderance of the evidence standard.
- A presumption of innocence prior to adjudication.
- Disclosure of all evidence to be presented against the returning citizen prior to the revocation hearing.
- The right to present and cross-examine witnesses.
- A revocation hearing before a neutral fact-finder.
- A written summary of facts and rulings after completion of the hearing process, with a notice detailing appeal rights and deadlines.
- An opportunity to present witnesses in support of a parole grant application.
- The presence of an attorney or non-attorney representative at a parole grant hearing.
- The opportunity to review the paroling authority’s case file prior to the hearing and to correct any errors.
- In the event a person is found to be liable for a violation of the terms of his or her release, without commission of a felony offense, such person should not be subject to re-incarceration, nor should he or she be re-incarcerated for a revocation after conviction for minor misdemeanor offenses. The staff should work with CSOSA, community-based organizations and counsel or representatives of the individual to develop alternative supervision arrangements to address current and future violations of the terms of supervision.
- For parole revocation hearings following a period of incarceration for a new felony conviction while on supervision, any additional incarceration ordered by the paroling authority should be based on the prisoner’s record during the felony incarceration. There should be a presumption against further incarceration in such circumstances, absent public safety concerns.
- All final decisions of the paroling authority should be immediately appealable. There should be an internal appeal mechanism where paroling authority decision-makers who had no role in the earlier decision can review any appeal as sought. If the internal appeal does not resolve the issues raised by the appellant and the outcome is incarceration, there should be a right to appeal to the D.C. Court of Appeals
- In the event of a parole or supervised release revocation after a technical or new felony violation, there should be no loss of accumulated “street time,” that is, no returning citizen should forfeit credit for successful time under supervision prior to a revocation, in effect re-serving supervision time.
- The paroling authority should set up a system of application for parole termination or early release from supervised release, with implementation of a fair hearing process for consideration of such applications. In the case of parole termination applications, annual reconsideration should follow every unsuccessful application for parole termination.
- Compassionate release applications filed by D.C. prisoners to the paroling entity should not require prior exhaustion of the prison grievance process.
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