by Gloria Killian, CIW
In the past few months there have been numerous newspaper articles, editorials, and commentaries reporting that the Board of Prison Terms is governed solely by politics and operates unfairly. Even some conservative newspapers have run articles stating that lifers who have rehabilitated themselves deserve a chance to go home. Finally, lawyers, judges, reporters, and the general public are beginning to learn what we in prison have known for the past decade: getting a parole date has little to do with the inmate and his or her activities in prison. The current process is inherently unfair. Not only is public opinion beginning to change, but throughout the state there are several court cases working their way through the judicial system. These suits raise various legal challenges against the BPT and the current parole system, but a favorable ruling in any one case will probably bring positive results for all lifers seeking parole.
Recently the California legislature also joined in the battle, refusing to confirm James Nielsen as Chairman of the Board for another term. This was an exercise in political power games in which the Senate Rules Committee let the Governor know that the Legislature is not pleased with the way the Governor and the BPT are presently doing business. Commissioner Hapburn has now been nominated for the post of BPT Chairman, but has not been confirmed as of this writing.
All of these events certainly indicate that there is finally a light at the end of the tunnel, but by no means is it time to sit back and wait to be graced with a parole date. Positive changes will come far more quickly if everyone affected by the current parole policies pitches in and fights back. Prepare for your next parole hearing as if your life depended on it, because it does. Do not give the Board any reason to deny you, then if you are not found suitable for parole, appeal that decision. Once the appeal has been denied, file a Writ of Habeas Corpus in the Superior Court in the county in which you are currently incarcerated. Eventually the courts will grant one of these Writs and order the release of a lifer. It might as well be you!
There is a light at the end of the tunnel and it’s time for all of us to stand up and walk towards that light.