Some states are still seek- ing input from the wrong people on parole decisions a Prison Policy Initiative report maintains.
The report says the wrong people are prosecutors and crime victims.
In California, prosecutors and victims must be notified when a person is being considered for parole. Yet the only information they can provide to parole commissioners is about the crime itself and who that person was, not the individual’s rehabilitative efforts.
Victims and prosecutors should have a right to be heard but the information they provide is not helpful in determining if the person has been rehabilitated, writes Jorge Renaud in the Oct. 25, 2018 report.
This is important given a 2016 survey commissioned by the Alliance on Safety and Justice. The survey indicated that “60 percent of victims preferred shorter prison sentences and more spending on prevention and rehabilitation to longer prison sentences,” Renaud reported.
The report also showed that victims were “three times more likely to prefer” accountability through options other than prison, like “rehabilitation, mental health, drug treatment and community supervision.” They also believed that prison did more to create criminals than to rehabilitate them.
Renaud argues it is “counterintuitive” to seek the opinions of prosecutors and victims during parole hearings, given their goal of putting offenders behind bars. Yet some criminal justice experts still endorse this antiquated process. Many reformers believe that parole decisions should be left to professionals who know how to identify transformation, psychological growth and increased maturity.
The American Law Institute has recommended a “second-look” provision to the Penal Code to review the cases of incarcerated individuals who have spent “at least 15 years in prison,” reports Renaud. Still, the institute also recommends notifying prosecutors and victims of these proceedings, undermining the reform effort.
“Prosecutorial overreach” is partially responsible for mass incarceration, reformers believe. Restorative justice, at the other end of the spectrum, offers a progressive approach that allows survivors of violence to heal, by confronting, meeting and talking with those who have wounded them.