Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Prop 9 Lives: Access to Parole Suitability Hearing Content

The CDCR website reports on an implementation of one of Prop 9's aspects: Victims, and others, will have access to an online transcript of the inmate's parole suitability hearing before the parole board. The transcripts are emailed to the victim, free of charge, or mailed for a flat fee of $25 per transcript.

This raises understandable concerns about confidentiality, which are answered by limiting the availability of this information to registered victims. The request webpage reads:

Marsy’s Law, Penal Code section 3041.5 (a) (4) permits the victim, next of kin, members of the victim’s family, and two representatives designated by the victim to request and receive a stenographic record of all proceedings. Any persons requesting a hearing transcript must be registered and meet the criteria of a victim as identified through the Office of Victim and Survivor Rights and Services (OVSRS). Please note: You must be registered in order to have your transcript request processed.

Now, the form used to request victim services (see image) allows you to register even if you are a "concerned citizen." However, it does limit notifications of parole hearings to victims and next of kin. It would make sense to similarly limit the ability to request a transcript. Moreover, this mechanism does not prevent forwarding the email received by victims to others.

Given the potential for wide dissemination of parole suitability hearing information, the question is: Does the public have a right to know the content of the hearing? What do you think?


Unknown said...

I'm concerned that this will affect the parole board's deliberation, especially in more high profile cases. They'll worry even more about the public's response to a grant of parole.

Hadar Aviram said...

That's quite an astute comment, Ryan. Usually, transparency is a good thing, but given the perception of public punitivism, this is a real cause for concern.

There may also be concerns of confidential and intimate details pertaining to prison information about an inmate's behavior behind bars. Some of these, arguably, are within the victim's right to know, but should not be disseminated to the general public. Some information about an inmate's behavior behind bars might even put him or her in danger upon release, if widely disseminated.