Category Archives: parole

ACTION ALERT: make a call for Parole Board diversity

Background

Gov. Baker nominated on Jan. 2 the Parole Board’s General Counsel, Gloriann Moroney, to fill Lucy Soto Abbe’s seat, who served on the Parole Board since 2010. Prior to coming to the Board as General Counsel in Jan. 2016, Moroney was an Assistant District Attorney in Suffolk County for 14 years.

The Coalition for Effective Public Safety (CEPS is a meta-group of activists and advocacy agencies) has long advocated for a parole board member with experience in social work, mental health, and substance abuse disorder.

We are calling on YOU to speak out for the appointment of a board member with a psych background so that the Board can better assess candidates who come before them, including many with mental health and addiction issues. 

Five current members of the Parole Board have law enforcement backgrounds which limit the range of perspectives to fairly judge parole applicants.

There are other problems with Moroney’s nomination.

·        She oversees a Board that  does not have a healthy paroling rate;

·        Prisoners with life sentences must wait eight to 10 months for parole decisions;

·        The Board has not recommended one person for commutation or pardon since Moroney became General Counsel, much less in the past year since Ms. Moroney became executive director and general counsel; 

·        The Board has not acted on a single petition for commutation since she became Counsel; and 

·        Too many people are returning to prison on technical violations rather than receiving intermediate sanctions, and so we needlessly fill our prisons and create more harm.

In her testimony given Wednesday, Moroney would not promise to serve out the five year appointment, and would not answer the question, “Do you want to become a judge?” The conclusion could be made that Moroney may use the Parole Board role as a stepping stone to a judgeship.

PLEASE take action by Tuesday at 5 pm

CEPS asks you call to your Governor’s Councilor (which appoints Parole Board members) before Weds. Jan. 16, when they will vote on Moroney’s nomination. 

Here are talking points for your councilor

Our present Parole Board has five members who have worked in law enforcement, parole, as attorneys, or in corrections, with only one member, Dr. Charlene Bonner, with experience and training in psychology. 

We have no Parole Board members with experience and training in psychiatry, sociology or social work.

 I oppose Moroney’s nomination because to fairly judge the parole applicants, the Board needs more balance in their training and experience, outside of law enforcement.

Because she does take ownership of her role at the Board and supervises seriously flawed practices—low paroling rate, too many re-incarcerations, not acting on commutations, unconscionable delays in lifer decisions—I ask you to vote against Gloriann Moroney’s nomination for parole board.

Find your Governor’s Councillor here:  https://www.mass.gov/service-details/councillors

 Find your district here: http://www.sec.state.ma.us/ele/eledist/counc11idx.htm 

​THANK YOU VERY MUCH on behalf of CEPS, the Massachusetts Coalition for Effective Public Safety, a group of individual activists and advocacy agencies.

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The Practical Case for Parole for Violent Offenders

From the NY Times                 By MARC MORJÉ HOWARD                     AUG. 8, 2017
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An inmate at St. Clair Correctional Facility in Alabama. Credit: William Widmer for The New York Times

The American criminal justice system is exceptional, in the worst way possible: It combines exceptionally coercive plea bargaining, exceptionally long sentences, exceptionally brutal prison conditions and exceptionally difficult obstacles to societal re-entry.

This punitiveness makes us stand out as uniquely inhumane in comparison with other industrialized countries. To remedy this, along with other changes, we must consider opening the exit doors — and not just for the “easy” cases of nonviolent drug offenders. Yes, I’m suggesting that we release some of the people who once committed serious, violent crimes.

There’s widespread agreement that current practices are unsustainable. The United States is home to 5 percent of the world’s population, yet has 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. The grim reality of American justice is that there are 2.3 million people behind bars, five million on parole or probation, 20 million with felony convictions and over 70 million with a criminal record.

That’s why sentencing reform — mainly consisting of reduced penalties for drug-related crimes — has received bipartisan support at both the federal and state levels. But this isn’t enough. We should also bring back discretionary parole — release before a sentence is completed — even for people convicted of violent crimes if they’ve demonstrated progress during their imprisonment.

Other democracies regularly allow such prisoners to be granted reduced sentences or conditional release. But in the United States the conversation about this common-sense policy became politicized decades ago. As a result, discretionary parole has largely disappeared in most states and was eliminated in the federal system. Prisoners whose sentences include a range of years — such as 15 to 25 years, or 25 years to life — can apply to their state’s parole board for discretionary parole, but they almost always face repeated denials and are sent back to wither away behind bars despite evidence of rehabilitation. (Inmates who have served their maximum sentence are released on what is called mandatory parole.)

But this fear-driven thinking is irrational, counterproductive and inhumane. It bears no connection to solid research on how criminals usually “age out” of crime, especially if they have had educational and vocational opportunities while incarcerated. It permanently excludes people who would be eager to contribute to society as law-abiding citizens, while taxpayers spend over $30,000 a year to house each prisoner. And it deprives hundreds of thousands of people of a meaningful chance to earn their freedom.

But are prisoners who have served long sentences for violent crimes genuinely capable of reforming and not reoffending? The evidence says yes. In fact, only about 1 percent of people convicted of homicide are arrested for homicide again after their release. Moreover, a recent “natural experiment” in Maryland is very telling. In 2012, the state’s highest court decided that Maryland juries in the 1970s had been given faulty instructions. Some defendants were retried, but many others accepted plea bargains for time served and were released. As a result, about 150 people who had been deemed the “worst of the worst” have been let out of prison — and none has committed a new crime or even violated parole.

This outcome may sound surprising, but having spent one afternoon a week for the past three years teaching in a maximum-security prison in Maryland, I’m not shocked at all. Many of the men I teach would succeed on the outside if given the chance. They openly recognize their past mistakes, deeply regret them and work every day to grow, learn and make amends. Many of them are serving life sentences with a theoretical chance of parole, but despite submitting thick dossiers of their accomplishments in prison along with letters of support from their supervisors and professors, they are routinely turned down.

Over the past several years, I have brought in hundreds of Georgetown students for tours that include a meeting with a panel of prisoners, and I have accompanied nearly 50 academic colleagues who have delivered lectures to my incarcerated students. Without fail, the things that stand out to visitors are the same things that haunt me: the compassion, engagement and intellect of people who made terrible mistakes long ago but should not be perpetually defined by the worst thing they’ve ever done.

Until recently the political situation was favorable to bipartisan criminal justice reform. But the election of a self-described “law and order candidate,” the doubling of the stock prices of private-prison companies and the return of the discredited war on drugs gives an indication of the direction of the current administration.

But whenever a real discussion about reform does come, policy makers should look beyond the boundaries of the United States.

To be clear, I am not suggesting that all long-term prisoners should be released nor that the perspectives of crime victims should be ignored. Serious crimes warrant long sentences. But other democracies provide better models for running criminal justice and prison systems. Perhaps we could learn from them and acquire a new mind-set — one that treats prisons as sites to temporarily separate people from society while creating opportunities for personal growth, renewal and eventual re-entry of those who are ready for it.

Marc Morjé Howard is the director of the Prisons and Justice Initiative at Georgetown, where he is a professor of government and law, and is the author of “Unusually Cruel: Prisons, Punishment and the Real American Exceptionalism.”

PEW study might do some good in MA

Alaska Draws Up Plans to Reduce Expanding Prison Population
Date:  01-20-2016

Recommendations include re-examining the bail bond system and revising drug laws

The Alaska Dispatch News reported that the Alaska Criminal Justice Commission has released recommendations on how to curb the state’s overly populated prison system. The Commission was aided byPew Charitable Trusts in drawing up the plans.

According to the Dispatch News, besides collecting data to measure the effectiveness of new laws and policies, and installing an oversight council, the recommendations include:

  • Expanding the use of citations in place of arrests for low-level, nonviolent offenses.
  • Deciding whether to release someone before trial based on the likelihood they’ll return for subsequent hearings or commit other crimes, instead of on their ability to pay a monetary bond. A review of court files showed the majority of cases required some type of monetary bond and “52 percent of sampled defendants were detained for the entirety of their pretrial period,” the report says.
  • Focusing resources on high-risk defendants — those who are “most likely to fail” or reoffend, the report says. More restrictive release conditions would be reserved for these offenders.
  • Limiting the use of prison space for low-level misdemeanor offenders by reclassifying some misdemeanors and violations, including changing disorderly conduct laws to allow for arrests but limit jail time to 24 hours, among other changes, the report says.
  • Revising drug penalties to focus the most severe punishments on serious drug crimes. Among the specific actions recommended, lawmakers are encouraged to reclassify the simple possession of heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine as a misdemeanor.
  • Implementing a specialty parole option for long-term, geriatric inmates.
  • Incentivizing treatment for sex offenders with sentence reductions for completing treatment