January 25, 2005
The Problem of Actual Innocence and Parole Boards
I recently came across a new paper by Michael Naughton of University of Bristol titled Why the Failure of the Prison Service and the Parole Board to Acknowledge Wrongful Imprisonment is Untenable. He argues an important point of relevance to the wrongly convicted. Namely, that parole boards almost universally refuse to release inmates on parole who refuse to accept responsibility for the crimes of which they have been convicted. Acceptance of responsibility is undoubtedly an important part of the rehabilitative process, and should be considered heavily. But this practice ignores recent evidence of the number of wrongfully convicted in this country, who as a result of these parole board policies, often end up serving longer sentences than their guilty counterparts. Abstract and article here.
This phenomenon has caused me a great deal of concern in my position as the Director of an Innocence Project. I represent a group of inmates at the current time for whom we have developed a reasonable amount of evidence of innocence, and whom I personally believe are innocent. However, given that judges often expect DNA-type ironclad proof of innocence for exonerations, our evidence in some of these cases is arguably insufficient to clear them in court under the exceedingly high standards for exoneration in my state (some of my parole clients could meet the standard, but have chosen to seek release on parole first and then fight to clear their names in court later). Thus, our first step is to obtain parole for these inmates if they are eligible. But the fact that these inmates adamantly refuse to admit guilt means that they might spend more time in prison than other inmates for whom absolutely no evidence of innocence exists.
The parole board in my state, however, has on some occasions, unlike some other parole boards, shown a willingness to "think the unthinkable," as Naughton calls it, and recognize that sometimes wrongful convictions occur. If you are in such a state, the next hurdle is that parole board hearings as currently set up in many states are not conducive to proving innocence. Typically, inmates in many states get just a few minutes to put on his or her case. After going through their excellent record in prison, etc., 2-3 minutes is simply not enough time to develop a convincing case of possible innocence in order to provide a plausible explanation as to why the inmate has not admitted guilt. Then, the prosecution and victim's family often has the chance to present their case for an extended period of time, typically using hearsay and other evidence that cannot be refuted (the inmate often does not have a rebuttal argument in many states). In many states, this procedure does not come close to resembling an adversarial proceeding where evidence of innocence can be thoroughly reviewed and considered.
Naughton's argument needs to be taken seriously. We need to come up with constructive ways to balance the competing interests so that evidence of innocence can be presented to parole boards in a fair way, and without having it automatically backfire and cause the inmate in question to serve more time than his clearly guilty counterparts. [Mark Godsey]
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My brother is being wrongfully imprisoned for parole violation. the evidence they used to violate his parole was a lie although at that time they believed the testimony of the girl.
the little girl lied because her daddy thought my brother was having an affair with his wife and he told his little girl to say bad things about my brother because hed go to jail and her mommy would come home to them..the sad thing is the man called by brother's parole officer on the very
same day my brother was to be off parole. we attended the parole board hearings and i dont even know why they have them because they violated his parole. the man made false accusations toward my brother, he has been in jail for almost a year in june 06 for something that was a lie...The mother of the girl called me
and i talked to the girl...she told me she lied about what he had done and it was not true and she told me that she was sorry..now they have filed charges on my brother for gross sexual
imposition and i know the truth will come out at that time and they might even drop the charges and when they do this my brother will need to be compensated for his time in prison that he
shouldnt even been in the first place..we plan
on suing the state of ohio, the parole board,
his parole officer and the man who mad the
whole thing up. thank you
Posted by: paula gillian | Apr 7, 2006 6:00:06 PM
My Husand Has Been Wrongfully Violated By Parole. They Say When He Was Released Last Year He Was Suppose To Report To A Mens Shelter And some Type Of Program. Which Is all False Because They Had My Address And Showed Up At My Home With An Warrant For His Arrest. He Was Reporting To His Parole Office Every Week And She Never Mentioned Anything To Him About The Shelter Or Program. I Need To Know What I Could Do To Help Him.
Posted by: Christal | Feb 27, 2007 8:25:32 PM