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.Via the Legal Theory Blog.
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.