For more than thirty years, the Post-Conviction Justice Project has represented thousands of clients before state and federal parole boards, and in both the state and federal court systems. For the past twenty years, students in the Project have represented state prisoners, mostly women incarcerated at the California Institution for Women, serving life-term sentences for murder convictions. Many committed crimes related to a history of physical or sexual abuse, and some were convicted for killing their abusers. PCJP client Rose Parker, now Dr. Rose Parker-Sterling, was one of only three life-term inmates to be released on parole under then-Governor Gray Davis. Her release in 2000 marked the first in an ever-growing number of PCJP clients to be released.
In 2008, PCJP students prevailed in a habeas challenge to parole denial on behalf of long-time client Sandra Davis-Lawrence in the California Supreme Court. The Lawrence decision was the first case where the California Supreme Court ruled in favor of an inmate in a parole case. The Project’s victory in Lawrence changed the landscape of judicial review in parole habeas challenges. At the time of the Lawrence decision, twenty-one PCJP clients had been released from prison. In the last five years, another sixty-one clients have been released through grants of parole or habeas challenges. The vast majority of thesse women and men are giving back to their communities through drug counseling, work with at-risk youth, and various religious organizations.
PCJP’s most recently released client, Mary Jones, served nearly 33 years for crimes committed by her batterer.
Currently, the Project represents fifty clients at the California Institution for Women and other state prisons across California.
To read more about the Project’s featured clients, click here.
On September 16, 2013, Governor Brown signed Senate Bill 260, a measure that allows inmates whose crimes were committed as minors to appear before the Board of Parole Hearings to demonstrate their suitability for release after serving at least 15 years of their sentence. The law will affect more than 5,000 California inmates and directs the Board to give “great weight to the diminished culpability of juveniles” and to consider evidence of their maturity and rehabilitation in prison.
The Post-Conviction Justice Project was a co-sponsor of the bill along with Human Rights Watch, Youth Law Center, and Friends Committee on Legislation.
SB 260 – Youthful Offender Parole Hearing – Passes the Assembly Floor
Senate Bill 260, authored by Senator Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley), passed the Assembly floor with a vote of 51-21. SB 260 requires the Board of Parole Hearings to conduct a youth offender parole hearing to consider release of offenders who committed specified crimes prior to being 18 years old and who were sentenced to state prison. The Post-Conviction Justice Project was a co-sponsor of the bill along with Human Rights Watch, Youth Law Center, and Friends Committee on Legislation.
This bill will head back to the Senate for concurrence. If the bill passes the Senate floor on concurrence, the bill will head to Governor Brown for final consideration.
For more details and specific bill language, click here.