Does public opinion affect parole decisions?

Whether or not they are secretly or subconsciously influenced by public opinion, parole boards in some places aren’t allowed to consider it. In others, they can consider it, but don’t have to. And in others still, they must.

In one case, for example, the then mayor of New York authored a letter discouraging the state parole board from granting parole to a prisoner because of the “heinousness” of the prisoner’s crimes. A federal judge explained that the relevant statute and regulations didn’t say that the board could consider public opinion in its decisions. So, the judge opined that the board could not legally take into account the opinion of the now former mayor.

In another case—this one arising out of Michigan—a state appeals court found that the parole board  wasn’t required to  consider a petition opposing parole for a particular prisoner. Almost 300 community members had signed the petition, but the appeals court explained that the parole guidelines didn’t include public opinion as a required consideration.

In California, however, the  Board of Parole Hearings  must “review all information received from the public to insure that the gravity and timing of all current or past convicted offenses have been given adequate consideration and to insure that the safety of the public has been adequately considered.” (Cal. Penal Code § 3043.5; see Cal. Code Regs. tit. 15, § 2028.)

So, whether a parole board can or must consider public opinion about the prisoner before it depends on the state.

Talk to a Lawyer

Start here to find criminal defense lawyers near you.

How it Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you
FEATURED LISTINGS FROM NOLO
Swipe to view more
DEFEND YOUR RIGHTS

Talk to a Defense attorney

We've helped 95 clients find attorneys today.

How It Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you