LOS ANGELES -- In a settlement reached Monday and published today with the United States Parole Commission, all people in federal prisons within the Ninth Circuit who are eligible for parole will get to participate in those hearings in-person. Two inmates represented by the ACLU of Southern California and the law firm Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman & Machtinger LLP sued the Commission for holding hearings by video with inmates instead of face to face.“From now on a video camera will not stand between a federal inmate and the people who decide his fate,” said Jessica Price, Staff Attorney for the ACLU of Southern California. “Prisoners will walk into a room and look the hearing examiners in the eye when they plead their cases for release. We believe that human interaction plays a large role in the outcome of a hearing. We are glad the Parole Commission sees eye to eye with us.”
In March 2012, U.S. District Judge Dale S. Fischer ruled that plaintiffs Christian Davis and John Paul Morrow, both inmates at Terminal Island Federal Prison in Long Beach, were likely to succeed on their claim that federal parole officials violated their rights by forcing inmates to have their parole hearings via video conference. The inmates had filed suit earlier last year, saying the video hearings violated the 1976 Parole Act, which guarantees inmates the right to appear at their parole hearings. In her ruling, Judge Fischer agreed that denying an in-person proceeding leads to a cold and detached hearing that could irreparably harm the inmates.
“We love to work with the ACLU because they advocate for those who have no advocates," said Greenberg Glusker managing partner Stephen Smith. "No other organization does so much to protect the rights of ALL people.”
The case is John Paul Morrow, et al v. United States Parole Commission, et al.
Settlement Agreement: http://www.aclusocal.org/cases/morrow-v-u-s-parole-commission/stipulation-settlement/
Preliminary injunction: https://www.aclu-sc.org/documents/view/431
Media Contact: Marcus Benigno, 213.977.5252