Commission has been holding hearings via video conferencing
Today the ACLU of Southern California has filed suit on behalf of two federal inmates to force the United States State Parole Commission to comply with federal law. The Parole Act, passed in 1976, guarantees inmates the right to attend their parole hearings in person, but the commission has required inmates to have hearings by video conference. The suit was filed in federal court in the Central District of California.
Plaintiffs Christian Davis and John Paul Morrow are inmates in Terminal Island Federal Prison in Los Angeles. Since 2006, Davis has been forced twice to have his parole hearings by video conference. Morrow has had the same experience.
By conducting parole hearings via video thousands of miles away from their location, the Parole Commission prevents inmates who are eligible for parole from presenting documents that may be essential to the hearing examiner in determining whether to grant or deny parole. In addition, studies show that individuals are less likely to be found credible when providing testimony by video. Both men want a personal hearing because they believe they cannot obtain a fair and meaningful hearing by video.
“It is hard to overstate what the possibility of parole means to someone who has been imprisoned for decades,” said Jessica Price, staff attorney for the ACLU/SC. “Given the importance of parole hearings, Congress wisely chose to insist that they be conducted in person. We call on the Parole Commission to cease its practice of circumventing federal law by denying to federal inmates this basic legal right.”
The lawsuit seeks a court decision ordering that this violation of federal law stop immediately and that the plaintiffs have the opportunity to appear in person at all future parole hearings should they so choose.
The case is John Paul Morrow et al v. United States Parole Commission et al.
Civil liberties are most vulnerable at times of crisis