Senate Bill 260, effective January 1, 2014, changes the timing of the first meeting that the Board of Parole Hearings has with an inmate serving a life sentence with the possibility of parole. Previously, a Board Commissioner or Deputy Commissioner met with each inmate during the third year of his or her incarceration to review the inmate's central file, make recommendations, and document the inmate’s activities and conduct pertinent to granting or withholding post-conviction credit. (Pen. Code, § 3041, subd. (a); Cal. Code Regs., tit. 15, § 2269.1.)
Starting January 1, 2014, Consultations will take the place of documentation hearings. The Board of Parole Hearings will meet with each life term inmate five to six years prior to the inmate’s initial parole suitability hearing. During this Consultation, a Board Commissioner, Deputy Commissioner, or both will review with the inmate his or her activities and conduct pertinent to both parole eligibility and to the granting or withholding of post-conviction credit (when applicable). The hearing panel will provide the inmate information about the parole hearing process, discuss the legal factors relevant to his or her suitability or unsuitability for parole, and make individualized recommendations to the inmate regarding his or her work assignments, rehabilitative programs, and institutional behavior. Within 30 days following the Consultation, the hearing panel shall issue its positive and negative findings and recommendations to the inmate in writing. (Pen. Code, § 3041, subd. (a), as amended by Stats. 2013, ch. 312 § 2.)
The Board will also conduct Consultations for all qualified youth offenders, whether serving a life term or determinate sentence. (Pen. Code, § 3051, added by Stats. 2013, ch. 312 § 4.)
Initial Parole Consideration Hearing (PC §§ 3041 & 3041.5; 15 CCR § 2268)
The initial parole consideration hearing is scheduled one year prior to the inmate’s minimum eligible parole date (MEPD). The hearing is typically conducted by a panel of two, including one Commissioner and one Deputy Commissioner. A second Commissioner may also be included to make a panel of three. The inmate is provided an attorney at this hearing. A representative for the District Attorney’s office of the committing county, and the victim’s next of kin and/or the victim may also attend. The purpose of the parole consideration hearing is for the panel to determine whether the inmate is suitable for parole, or poses a current unreasonable risk of danger to society if released. In making this determination, the panel reviews all relevant information as described in 15 CCR §§ 2281 and 2402. If the panel denies parole, the panel schedules the next hearing for 15, 10, 7, 5, or 3 years in accordance with Penal Code § 3041.5(b)(3)
Subsequent Parole Consideration Hearing (PC §§ 3041 & 3041.5; 15 CCR § 2270)
Progress Hearing (15 CCR § 2269)
A progress hearing is conducted for an inmate who has been granted parole, but who has a parole release date in the future. Progress hearings are scheduled pursuant to 15 CCR § 2269(b) based on the amount of time remaining between the inmate’s last hearing and the parole release date, and an inmate with a long period of time left to serve may be scheduled for multiple progress hearings. In order for a progress hearing to be scheduled, the inmate must have 10 or more months remaining to serve prior to release. At the progress hearing, the hearing panel determines whether a previously set parole date should be advanced because of the inmate’s positive conduct in prison through the award of post conviction credit in accordance with 15 CCR § 2290. The hearing is typically conducted by a panel of two, including one Commissioner and one Deputy Commissioner. The inmate is not provided an attorney at the hearing. The victim’s next of kin and/or the victim may attend.
Rescission Hearing (PC § 3041.1, 15 CCR §§ 2450 - 2471)
A rescission hearing is a hearing to evaluate whether there is good cause to postpone or rescind a parole release date. A rescission hearing is scheduled based on new information that may indicate parole should not occur (including new information of disciplinary conduct), or identification of a fundamental error that may have resulted in an improvident grant of parole. A rescission hearing may be held in conjunction with a CDCR disciplinary hearing. When the Governor refers a parole decision to the Board pursuant to PC § 3041.1, the Board will review the decision en banc, and may order a rescission hearing. A rescission hearing is typically conducted by a panel of three, at least two of whom are Commissioners. The inmate is provided an attorney at this hearing. The inmate has the ability to call witnesses for evidentiary purposes. A representative from the District Attorney’s office of the committing county may also attend.
Grant - A grant decision occurs when the panel finds an inmate suitable for parole.
Deny - A denial decision occurs when the panel finds an inmate unsuitable for parole.
Continuance - Title 15 of the California Code of Regulations provides that the Board may continue a hearing that has already commenced if a party requesting the continuance shows good cause. (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 15, § 2253, subd. (e).) A parole-hearing continuance occurs when a hearing is commenced, but is not completed for some reason and is, therefore, continued to a future date for completion. Continued hearings do not occur often.
Cancellation - A parole-hearing is cancelled when there is no need for the hearing to go forward and no need to reschedule the hearing. For example, the Board would cancel an inmate’s scheduled parole hearing if the inmate was released pursuant to a court order or if the inmate dies. In such a situation, the Board does not "continue" or "postpone" the hearing because the hearing will not be rescheduled.
Split Decision - A split decision occurs when the members of a two-person parole hearing panel do not agree on (1) whether an inmate is suitable for parole, or (2) the length of a denial period (3, 5, 7, 10, or 15 years) for an inmate who is unsuitable for parole. Split decisions are do not occur often.
Postponement - Title 15 of the California Code of Regulations provides that the Board can postpone a scheduled parole hearing on its own motion, at the request of an inmate, or for exigent circumstances. (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 15, § 2253, subd. (d).) Sometimes postponements are requested days or weeks before the scheduled hearing date, but postponements may also occur on the day of a hearing.
Waivers - Title 15 of the California Code of Regulations provides that inmates may waive a parole hearing for any reason for a period of one to five years as long as the request is submitted at least 45 calendar days prior to the hearing. (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 15, § 2253, subd. (b).) A request for a waiver submitted less than 45 days before a hearing is presumed invalid and shall be denied by the Board unless good cause is shown and the reasons for the waiver were not and could not reasonably have been known to the inmate 45 days prior to the hearing. Inmate-waiver requests are common and are frequently granted.
Stipulation - Title 15 of the California Code of Regulations provides that inmates may stipulate to their unsuitability for parole. (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 15, § 2253, subd. (c).) A stipulation occurs when the Board accepts an inmate’s offer to stipulate to his or her unsuitability for parole for a specified period (3, 5, 7, 10, or 15 years). If the Board accepts an inmate’s offer to stipulate, it is considered a denial of parole for the stipulated period. For example, an inmate might offer to stipulate that he or she will be unsuitable for parole for a period of three years. If the Board accepts such an offer, the inmate will be denied parole and will receive his or her next parole hearing three years from the previously scheduled hearing date. An inmate’s offer to stipulate to his or her unsuitability will only be addressed at the hearing. Requests for stipulations are common and are frequently granted.
Board of Parole Hearings
Post Office Box 4036
Sacramento, CA 95812-4036