“For years, the Illinois parole revocation process has left alleged parole violators in the dark and unable to defend themselves. The vast majority lost their freedom in phony hearings that lasted only minutes and stripped them of their constitutional right to due process,” says Alexa Van Brunt, Clinical Assistant Professor of Law and attorney for the MacArthur Justice Center.
Referring to the federal class action lawsuit brought against the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC), and the Illinois Prisoner Review Board (IPRB), in 2003; the suit alleged that both agencies violated due process of the law by reimprisoning parolees for alleged violations without access to legal counsel and fair hearings, as stated in a press release.
“Most people think that if you are facing prison in this country, you are entitled to a lawyer. That has not been true in Illinois, where thousands of people every year are returned from parole to prison without a lawyer, or a proper hearing,” said Alan Mills, Executive Director of Uptown People’s Law Center.
According to MacArthur Justice Center attorney Sheila A. Bedi, 28,000 men and women parolees were at risk of having their lives interrupted. Attorney Bedi referred to Illinois’ parole system as “byzantine and dysfunctional.”
Some of the terms of the settlement agreement include: 1. Parolees will receive written notice of any alleged parole violation leading to revocation and written findings at each stage of the process. 2. Parolees will be able to explain their side at a preliminary hearing before a hearing officer or an IPRB member. If determination is made that a parole violation did not occur, the parolee will be released. Previously, preliminary hearing were rarely held, and people sat for months before anyone heard their defense. 3. At preliminary and final hearings, many parolees will be represented by legal counsel provided by the state, if they meet certain criteria.
“The system seems intent on keeping prison doors revolving. The rush to reincarcerate has helped keep prison overcrowded,” says attorney Van Blunt.
According to the press statement, parolees will have an opportunity to comment on the terms of the settlement on January 25, 2017, at a fairness hearing conducted by US District Judge Amy St. Eve.
Stay tuned for further development . . .