Parole, a Meaningful Chance at Freedom

As a criminal defense lawyer, I’ve had the privilege of representing a few inmates for their parole hearings. I put together affidavits, letters from supporters, speak to family members about living arrangements and potential employers about money making opportunities.  I review the case and analyze a client’s institutional history.  Then, I put these elements together to present to the parole board to make the case why my client should be released.  After all, the General Assembly has provided for this opportunity, so my client should have a reasonable opportunity to be released.

The problem is, it seems to me (and I’m only drawing from personal experience here), that the Board often isn’t much concerned about my client’s reformation, or his opportunities upon release.  Instead, in each case I’ve had, the Board wants to know “what was in [my client’s] mind” at the time of the crime.  Or, they want to know why a client received a minor disciplinary infraction.  Generally, a parole hearing takes *maybe* 7 minutes TOPS, and then it’s over.  Oh, and if there’s a victim family member or other loved one who objects to an inmate’s release, then that just about settles it.

Here is the statute that mandates what the Parole Board should be considering about the inmate:

S.C. Code §24-3-640—Circumstances warranting parole—The Board must carefully consider the record of the prisoner before, during, and after imprisonment, and no such prisoner may be paroled until it appears to the satisfaction of the board:  that the prisoner has shown a disposition to reform; that in the future he will probably obey the law and lead a correct life; that by his conduct he has merited a lessening of the rigors of his imprisonment; that the interest of society will not be impaired thereby; and that suitable employment has been secured for him.

In the new year, I hope to handle more of these hearings.  It’s time to make parole hearings a meaningful opportunity for release for inmates.