Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Should assertions of innocence be held against parole applicants?

With the rash of newly discovered innocence cases in Texas, it now appears inarguable that SOME percentage of those in prison today, however big or small the number, likely face the stark choice described in this new article, "The Innocent Prisoner's Dilemma: Consequences of Failing to Admit Guilt at Parole Hearings," by Daniel S. Medwed.

If you're in prison but actually innocent, should you lie to the parole board to "take responsibility" and "demonstrate remorse"? Odds are you'd get out a lot quicker, says Medwed. But then should the system be allowed later to admit such statements in court? In this context, Medwed reflects on whether it's wise to hold "assertions of innocence" against prisoners in the parole process and offers reform suggestions. Here's the abstract:
The granting of parole in the criminal justice system is often viewed as an act of grace: the dispensation of mercy by the government to an individual prisoner deemed worthy of conditional release prior to the expiration of his sentence. Yet the criteria upon which state parole boards base these acts of grace, let alone the propriety of using such criteria, has received little scholarly attention and remains something of a mystery to those outside the inner sanctum of parole boards.

Denials of parole are largely unreviewable and courts have held that due process imposes only a minimal burden upon parole boards to reveal the rationales for their decisions. Nevertheless, surveying state parole release decisions and policies demonstrates that, among other factors, a prisoner's willingness to "own up" to his misdeeds - to acknowledge culpability and express remorse for the crime for which he is currently incarcerated - is a vital part of the parole decision-making calculus. That is, admitting one's guilt increases the likelihood of a favorable parole outcome for an inmate whereas proclaiming innocence serves to diminish the chance for release. The main objective of this Article is to consider whether this is wise. Should a prisoner's assertions of innocence be held against him in the parole process?

Part I of this Article briefly discusses the origins of parole in the United States as well as the contemporary features of parole release decision-making. Next, Part II explores how the reliance on prisoner admissions of guilt as part of the parole release decision intersects (and potentially interferes) with the efforts of innocent inmates to win their freedom. Part III then critically examines the theoretical and normative implications of the current parole system's emphasis on remorse and responsibility. Finally, Part IV recommends several specific reforms concerning the treatment of inmate claims of innocence at parole hearings: limiting the use of parole hearing transcripts at future post-conviction proceedings; distinguishing statements of remorse from those of responsibility; and re-conceiving the role played by parole boards in entertaining questions of guilt and innocence.
Via the Legal Theory Blog.


Anonymous said...

The Soviet Union used the same technique on subversives. If they admitted their guilt for nonexistent crimes, their rehabilitation would begin. If they insisted they were innocent, the process would start anew, time, and time, and time again.

This is simply an example of torture, and it is violent, since it forces people to remain in cages against their will, and obedience is coerced by the threat of force, including deadly force.

Many parents use the same torture technique on their children, accusing them of misdeeds they didn't commit, then forcing them to confess so that they will be punished, but punished less than if they protested their innocence.

Personally, my opinion of practitioners of this is that there's nothing wrong with them that rope won't cure.

800 pound gorilla said...

What about ex cons who get paroled - or rehabbed - so they can testify in front of high school students that "the meth made me commit those crimes"? Are they taking responsibility for their bad behaviors? Ignore the stark reality that these claims take no account whatsoever that $150 dollar an ounce addictions play a key role in nearly all of these crimes.

Police chiefs face this dilemma all the time. They feel that they have to lie to the public about the law that makes illegal drugs so heavily involved in the criminal justice equation- or risk losing funding to help them fight the scourge. If they tell the truth, they lose any chance of funding and the law is still in effect to wreak havoc on their communities. If they lie there is still no guarantee of money and the problem continues. We might have enough money to keep pouring it into police budgets or we may bankrupt the criminal justice system fighting a war without goals or standards of harm or scientific studies.

It's the people at the top making policy who need that rope - either around their necks or their waists to pull them down from the seats of power.

Anonymous said...

If someone is not guilty, why does their freedom hinge on admitting to something they did not do? This is insane and does this only justify the job of the BPP? Sounds to me like that is what is going on. Say, you are sorry for something and get to go home or say you did not do what you were accused of and continue to be locked up. This is torture and should be stopped.

The BPP needs to be cleaned out starting with Rissie Owens, who thinks she is the queen of something. She needs to be put in her place and made to stay there. Who does she answer to? It appears no one!

There is not doubt our Judicial System is sick and needs to be overhauled from the Judges who sit in court, DAs who only want to win and also to the lawyers who take money from families and then do nothing. I am totally ashamed of what is going on with our judicial system and the abuse, torture and treatment given to Inmates is totally wrong and those who commit these acts will have to answer to a higher Judge one day for their actions.