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Have you heard......?

...that the BPH is now moving toward shorter parole hearings, less subjectivity in decisions, a new framework for hearings created just for the California system of parole? Well if you have, it true. And as with any change, rumors are rampant on the prison yards, spilling over into homes as inmates call their families to try and get a handle on what's going on.

So here's the 'scoop.' The Board of Parole Hearings, following several months of research, consultation and creation, has previewed the new Structured Decision Making Framework (SDMF), a process the board hopes will shorten hearings, while still covering all salient factors of suitability in deciding whether to grant any given inmate a parole grant.

Commissioners and Deputy Commissioners underwent 2 days of training at the end of April, working off a worksheet of factors identified as being relevant to the prisoner's current risk, thus assisting the panel members in making consistent, supportable decision based on empirical factors, not subjectivity. After the 2 days of training the panel members disbursed to hold scheduled hearings......with, frankly, mixed results. Some commissioners, apparently comfortable with the change and rapid time frame, began using the SDMF the next day, holding hearings that averaged, from reports, about 2 hours each, with several hearings reported as lasting only an hour--and often resulting in grants.

But some commissioners have not been using the SDMF guidelines, evident in the multi-hour length of their considerations. And while there are no firm figures or results as yet, clearly the intent of the BPH is that all commissioners will eventually move to the streamlined SDMF process. So it's clearly a work in progress, with more training and review in coming weeks. But to put some of the rumors to rest--there is no maximum time for hearings under SDMF; hearing will still take as long as they take, but BPH believes following the framework will reduce that amount of needed time.

The SDMF is not an out-of-thin-air creation, but an adaption of a process used by parole authorities in Canada and 7 other US states in making parole decisions. BPH, in conjunction with researchers and academics in Canada, with input from parole authorities in other states, worked to create a SDMF specific to California and our unique laws.

BPH Headquarters, Sacramento

All important aspects of California parole hearings will be retained: the prisoner is entitled to appear in person, to be provided legal representation at that hearing, will receive a psychological evaluation (CRA), input from DAs and victims will be considered and, despite the framework, the discretion of the parole commissioners to make their decision will be maintained.

Did we say work in progress? Stay tuned.

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Dave and I just returned from our weekly group at CMF--it's now after 7 pm, yet another long day. But I wanted to share an email that was waiting for me when we returned to the office--below is that


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