Report: False Hope - How Parole Systems Fail Youth Serving Extreme Sentences

This report documents the failures of parole systems across the United States and how these systems fail prisoners who were young when convicted of serious crimes and are serving decades or their lives in prison.

Executive Summary
Recommendations
Methodology

I. MASS INCARCERATION, EXTREME SENTENCES, AND HOW WE TREAT YOUNG PEOPLE IN THE U.S. CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM   
      A. Long Sentences (Getting Longer) in the United States   
      B. Longer for Some: Racial Disparities in Sentencing         
      C. Youth and Long Sentences in the United States
              1. Why Youth Should Be Treated Differently
              2. Youth in the U.S. Adult Courts and Prisons
              3. Youth in the U.S. Criminal Justice System: A Human Rights Outlier

II. THE POST-MILLER WORLD: STATE REFORMS FOR YOUNG OFFENDERS AND THE WORK THAT REMAINS
        A. The U.S. Supreme Court and Punishments for Youth: Roper Through Montgomery
        B. State Reforms for Youth in the Criminal Justice System—and Their Limits
        C. The Post-Miller World: The Persistence of Long Sentences for Youth     

III. PAROLE: LEGAL BACKGROUND AND NATIONAL OVERVIEW OF A SYSTEM DESIGNED TO FAIL       
        A. Who Is the Parole Board?       
        B. Parole and/vs. Due Process       
        C. Parole as a Second Sentencing
        D. Lack of Judicial Review/Independent Oversight           
        E. Parole Grant Rates         
        F. Parole and Young Offenders       
                1.  Youth-Specific Guidelines and Their Impact on Parole   
               2.  Youth as an Aggravating Factor

IV. PAROLE IN PRACTICE: HUGE DISCRETIONARY POWER, NO TRANSPARENCY, AND LIMITED RIGHTS           
        A. Paltry Process with Significant Consequences
               1. Parole Review in the Absence of a Hearing         
               2. Hostile Hearings             
               3. No Legal Assistance       
        B. A Closed System: The Lack of Transparency in the Parole Process             
              1.  Uncertainty About the Factors Considered in a Parole Decision
              2. Lack of Transparency in Parole Denial

V. DENIED FOR THE SERIOUSNESS OF THE OFFENSE           
       A. The Severity of the Crime: An Explicit, Required, and Deciding Factor
       B. Where the Offense Rules, Parole Is Foreclosed
       C. Challenges for Innocent Prisoners            

VI. EXTERNAL IMPEDIMENTS TO PAROLE    
       A. Judicial Veto in Michigan               
       B. Governor Veto Power in Maryland, California, and Oklahoma     

VII. REHABILITATION: THE THWARTED PATH TO PAROLE       
      A. Access to Programming for Youth Serving Long Sentences           
      B. Reentry Planning and Assistance           
      C. Denied Rehabilitation and Now, Denied Parole

VIII. COSTS OF DELAY               
     A. Medical Parole: A Squandered Opportunity   
     B. First In, Last Out: Young Prisoners Waiting for Geriatric Release

IX. INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS LAW PERSPECTIVE     
     A. Human Rights Law, Proportionality, and Extreme Sentences       
     B. Parole and the Meaningful Opportunity for Release       
     C. Rights of the Child in the Criminal Justice System               
     D. Children, Courts, and Punishment           
     E. Children in Prison             
     F. The Right to Rehabilitation           

X. SELECTED STORIES OF INDIVIDUALS SERVING EXTREME SENTENCES SINCE THEIR YOUTH, WAITING FOR RELEASE ON PAROLE                

Acknowledgements
Appendix A: For prisoners serving a life sentence, when is the first parole review? State by state
Appendix B: If a person is denied parole (discretionary release), when will they be reviewed again? State by state
Appendix C: Sample FOIA Request
Endnotes

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