Events Before a Parole Suitability Hearing
Generally five to six years before an incarcerated person’s first parole suitability hearing, a commissioner, deputy commissioner, or both will meet with the incarcerated person. During this informal consultation, the commissioner or deputy commissioner will explain the parole suitability hearing process and review with the incarcerated person’s activities and conduct in prison. The commissioner or deputy commissioner will discuss the legal factors relevant to parole suitability and unsuitability, and make recommendations to the incarcerated person regarding their work assignments, rehabilitative programs, and institutional behavior. Within 30 days following this meeting, the commissioner or deputy commissioner will issue their findings and recommendations to the incarcerated person in writing. Please refer to the Board’s Consultations Bench Guide for more information about consultations.
Many things have to occur during the months leading up to a parole hearing.
Below is a list of procedures and the general timing of when they occur.
- Hearing is scheduled for a particular week
- Incarcerated person is served with notice of the week the hearing will be held
- Incarcerated person is served with a Notice of Rights, detailing their rights through the parole hearing process
- Incarcerated person is asked if they would like an attorney and an opportunity to review their institutional records
- If the incarcerated person’s last risk assessment will be more than three years old at their hearing, or if it is the incarcerated person’s first parole hearing, the incarcerated person will be interviewed by one of the Board’s forensic clinical psychologists for purposes of producing a comprehensive risk assessment for the hearing panel to consider
- Incarcerated person is appointed counsel
- If it is the incarcerated person’s first parole hearing, the incarcerated person’s correctional counselor will complete a summary of the incarcerated person’s institutional behavior and programming since their last admission date
- The district attorney’s office that prosecuted the case, victims, and victims’ family members who are registered with CDCR’s Office of Victim and Survivor Rights and Services are notified of the hearing, date, location and whether the hearing will be conducted in-person or by video conference
- The incarcerated person’s attorney at sentencing and the investigating law enforcement agency are notified of the incarcerated person’s upcoming parole hearing and provided an opportunity to submit statements to the Board for its consideration at the parole hearing
- If requested, the incarcerated person is provided an opportunity to review their institutional records
- The incarcerated person is served with their comprehensive risk assessment
- The incarcerated person’s attorney and the district attorney’s office are provided access to an electronic copy of the incarcerated person’s institutional records
- An incarcerated person is served with notice of the date of the scheduled hearing and is asked about any reasonable accommodations they may need at the hearing
- Interpreter is hired for the hearing, if necessary
Waiving a Parole Suitability Hearing
No later than 45 days before a parole suitability hearing, the incarcerated person may submit a request to voluntarily waive their hearing for any reason. An incarcerated person may waive their hearing for one to five years. An incarcerated person may waive their hearing up to three times in a row.
When an incarcerated person requests to waive their parole hearing, they are deemed to have waived their right to a parole suitability hearing. Requests to waive a parole hearing should be submitted at the earliest possible date. Requests submitted at least 45 days before a parole hearing are presumed to be valid. Requests submitted less than 45 days before the hearing are presumed to be invalid and will be denied unless the incarcerated person can show good cause and the reason for the waiver request were not and could not reasonably have been known to the incarcerated person more than 45 days before the hearing. If a waiver is submitted and approved, the Board will notify any victims, victims’ families, and the district attorney’s office that received notice of the hearing as soon as possible.
Postponing a Parole Suitability Hearing
The Board of Parole Hearings recognizes that the rights and interests of all persons appearing for a parole suitability hearing are best served when hearings are conducted as scheduled. The Board, therefore, makes every effort to avoid postponing a parole hearing once it is scheduled. Nevertheless, it is sometimes necessary to postpone a parole hearing.
A parole hearing may be postponed due to the unavailability of a hearing panel, missing or untimely documents, notices, or accommodations for an inmate’s disability that are required for a parole hearing. In addition, a hearing can be postponed due to exigent circumstances such as illness, natural disasters, or emergencies in the prison.
Incarcerated persons may also request to postpone their hearing to resolve matters relevant to their parole suitability hearing. Requests will be approved only if the incarcerated person shows good cause for the postponement and the incarcerated person did not and could not have known about the need for the postponement any earlier than when the request was made.
Hearings that are postponed will be scheduled as soon as possible, usually within four to six months, and all parties entitled to receive notice of the hearing will receive notice of the new scheduled date.
Stipulations to Unsuitability
A stipulation is an agreement between the Board and an incarcerated person in which the incarcerated person agrees they are not suitable for parole. This means the incarcerated person is requesting to be denied parole without the Board conducting a parole suitability hearing. The incarcerated person may offer to stipulate to being unsuitable for parole for a period of 15, 10, 7, 5, or 3 years. The hearing panel will consider statements from hearing participants, including the victim, victim’s family, and their representative or attorney before deciding to accept or reject the offer. If the offer is accepted, the incarcerated person will be denied parole for 15, 10, 7, 5, or 3 years and the parole suitability hearing will not occur.
If you need additional information about the Board’s parole suitability hearings, please write or call the Board at:
Board of Parole Hearings
Post Office Box 4036
Sacramento, CA 95812-4036
Victims who would like to request notice and an opportunity to attend an incarcerated person’s parole suitability hearing or who would like to request notice of an incarcerated person’s release must register with CDCR’s Office of Victim and Survivor Rights and Services. For further information, please visit CDCR’s Office of Victim and Survivor Rights and Services or call toll-free 1-877-256-6877.