A new report highlights opportunities for the State of Connecticut to reduce the high rate of incarceration attributable to its parole revocation process. The report was written by the Samuel Jacobs Criminal Justice Clinic (“CJC”) at Yale Law School.
The report details the findings of a research project that began in the fall of 2015 after Governor Dannel Malloy announced the Second Chance Society initiative. To support that initiative, CJC agreed to undertake a study of parole revocation in Connecticut to explore ways to reduce incarceration and to facilitate the reintegration of parolees into society.
Fiona Doherty, the Director of CJC, said that “CJC agreed to study the parole revocation process, because the revocation of parole is a leading cause of incarceration in Connecticut. Understanding the dynamics of revocation is a key challenge in lowering the state’s incarceration rate.”
As part of the CJC study, students and faculty personally observed 49 parole revocation hearings in Connecticut in November 2015. Shortly after these observations, they reported the following findings to state officials:
• The Board of Pardons and Paroles (BOPP) revoked parole in 100% of the observed cases.
• BOPP imposed a prison sanction in 100% of observed cases.
• Nearly all parolees in the observed cases waived their due process rights in the parole revocation process.
• No parolee appeared with appointed counsel, even though several parolees seemed clearly to qualify for state-provided counsel under the constitutional standard.
• The typical procedures at parole revocation hearings made it difficult for parolees to contest disputed facts or to present mitigating evidence. Without counsel, incarcerated parolees did not have a meaningful opportunity to develop evidence in support of their claims.
In 2016, CJC administered a follow-up survey to parolees whose hearings it had observed. The survey revealed that most parolees did not understand the rights that they had waived during the parole revocation process. The survey also revealed that 79% of the parolees interviewed had lost jobs as a consequence of parole revocation.
“We were deeply unsettled by the parole revocation hearings we observed in November 2015. People were waiving their rights virtually across the board,” said Theo Torres ’18, a third-year law student who began work on the project in the spring of his first year.
Over the last two years, BOPP has begun to implement reforms to its parole revocation practices in response to the CJC study. In 2017, BOPP asked that CJC present additional recommendations in writing, which led to the release of this report.
“It’s been a special opportunity to see our efforts begin to push the system forward,” said Torres. “We look forward to continuing our work with the Board of Pardons and Paroles to implement the reforms proposed in this report.”
The Samuel Jacobs Criminal Justice Clinic is a part of the Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization at Yale Law School.