Events Before a Parole Suitability Hearing
Generally five to six years before an inmate’s first parole suitability hearing, a commissioner, deputy commissioner, or both will meet with the inmate. During this informal consultation, the commissioner or deputy commissioner will explain the parole suitability hearing process and review with the inmate his or her 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 inmate regarding his or her work assignments, rehabilitative programs, and institutional behavior. Within 30 days following this meeting, the commissioner or deputy commissioner will issue his or her findings and recommendations to the inmate 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
- Inmate is served with notice of the week the hearing will be held
- Inmate is served with a Notice of Rights, detailing his or her rights through the parole hearing process
- Inmate is asked if he or she would like an attorney and an opportunity to review his or her institutional records
- If the inmate’s last risk assessment will be more than three years old at his or her hearing, or if it is the inmate’s first parole hearing, the inmate 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
- If it is the inmate’s first parole hearing, the inmate’s correctional counselor will complete a summary of the inmate’s institutional behavior and programming since his or her last admission date
- Inmate is appointed counsel, if he or she cannot afford one
- 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 and location
- The inmate’s attorney at sentencing, the sentencing judge, and the investigating law enforcement agency are notified of the inmate’s upcoming parole hearing and provided an opportunity to submit statements to the Board for its consideration at the parole hearing
- If requested, the inmate is provided an opportunity to review his or her institutional records
- The inmate is served with his or her comprehensive risk assessment
- The inmate’s attorney and the district attorney’s office are provided access to an electronic copy of the inmate’s institutional records
- Inmate is served with notice of the date of the scheduled hearing and is asked about any reasonable accommodations he or she 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 inmate may submit a request to voluntarily waive his or her hearing for any reason. An inmate may waive his or her hearing for one to five years. An inmate may waive his or her hearing up to three times in a row.
When an inmate requests to waive his or her parole hearing, he or she is deemed to have waived his or her 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 inmate can show good cause and the reason for the waiver request were not and could not reasonably have been known to the inmate 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.
Inmates may also request to postpone their hearing to resolve matters relevant to their parole suitability hearing. Requests will be approved only if the inmate shows good cause for the postponement and the inmate 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.
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 inmate’s parole suitability hearing or who would like to request notice of an inmate’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.
Stipulations to Unsuitability
A stipulation is an agreement between the Board and an inmate in which the inmate agrees he or she is not suitable for parole. This means the inmate is requesting to be denied parole without the Board conducting a parole suitability hearing. The inmate 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 inmate will be denied parole for 15, 10, 7, 5, or 3 years and the parole suitability hearing will not occur.