Right to Know Why

Supporting Argument 10. Those who are denied have the right to know why.

Every incarcerated person who is denied parole shall receive the complete explanation for their denial in writing from the Prisoner Review Board.

This written explanation will outline exactly which of an individual’s goals for release have been satisfactorily met and which have yet to be attained.  It will include suggestions for how the unmet goals can be accomplished.

Every incarcerated person shall have full rights to challenge their denial of parole via administrative grievance remedies.

Every incarcerated person shall have the right after the exhaustion of administrative remedies to seek relief in the circuit court of a denial of parole by the PRB.

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I recently had the opportunity to be able to talk to a C# who retains rights to regular parole hearings in Illinois under the pre-1978 paroling laws.  This is what he said about how the parole board has affected him:

“I have appeared before the parole board more than 25 times.  I have been set each       time.  I used to get highly upset for being set when the rationale was the same year     after year.  I have learned not to raise my hopes high when I appear before the board.          This helps me to keep my sanity.”

There are many C#s that feel the same way as this man.  This is why every incarcerated person attending a parole hearing should have a complete explanation by the board, in writing, detailing why they are being denied.  This way, the person has a clear understanding of why they are being denied, as well as direction for what they can work on across the next year in order to be paroled in the future.

Every incarcerated person should have full rights to challenge their denial of parole using established administrative remedies.  Why?  Because this allows him or her to shine light on what may be an unjustified decision.  The burden will be on the PRB to prove, in light of the record, that their decision was sound and unbiased.  These remedies would allow those who are convicted of high profile cases to receive a full and fair hearing, which will also keep political oppression from being the reason that the board denies a person parole.  These appeal remedies hold the PRB accountable for their actions.

Every incarcerated person seeking parole should have the right after the exhaustion of administrative remedies to seek relief in the circuit court from the denial of parole.  Establishing this remedy will allow him or her to challenge the IDOC administrative appeal decisions procedure and/or policy.  This remedy should correct any unjustified decision made by the PRB or administrative decision regarding his or her challenge of their denial of parole.  Having a remedy that is independent of the IDOC is a necessary measure to ensure that a proper review of the record is conducted, with the burden on the PRB to prove their decision is sound and unbiased.  This remedy should restore confidence in a system that has failed so many for too long.

Lastly, every person denied parole should know why they were denied, and what he or she must do before the next parole hearing to prevent the same reason for denial from occurring again.  This allows that person to see exactly what the parole board is looking for and what must be done so that he or she will not face the same, stagnant reasons for denial.  This clear communication should relieve both the board and the person seeking parole of confusion and make the burden of decision making on the PRB lighter.  The paroling decision for the PRB should ultimately be simple.  Once the person seeking parole has completed every one of their initially-outlined requirements, they will be released on parole.  The explanations provided to each person for their denial and suggestions of how to overcome those barriers in the future should be able to restore, even if it is only a small amount, of confidence into that person who knows they have been focusing heavily on their own self-rehabilitation.  For a person who may have been denied parole over 25 times, confidence in a system that has beat them down for so long may never come about.  But with this requirement for the PRB, that person should have real and clear hope for obtaining parole through meeting the requirements listed by the PRB.  This requirement will keep the PRB from presenting new reasons for denial, as any reason for possible denial that has not been initially listed in the first hearing will be considered illegitimate and will be disregarded.

~ Written by Benard McKinley
Benard was incarcerated at age 16, and his release is set for 2101 at age 116.

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