Make Your Next Illinois Parole Hearing Your Last
It is no secret that Illinois does not release inmates on parole as often as our state likely should. Perhaps even worse, data suggests that as prisoners age in the Prairie State, they have less and less chance of release. That means you cannot wait and hope that you will get out after your next parole hearing if you fail your current one.
You may have experienced these failings within the Illinois justice system yourself. If so, then you already know that ensuring your best chances for release at your very next Illinois Prisoner Review Board hearing is paramount.
How do you do that? It is fairly simple, but not necessarily easy:
- Understand the process and what goes on behind the scenes.
- Know your rights walking into the hearing.
- Have the right legal team representing you before the board.
That is where we come in. Our team understands how to maximize your odds of making your next Illinois parole hearing your last. For questions regarding your personal circumstances as an inmate, reach out to the Law Offices of Andrew M. Weisberg.
Lawyers Who Know the Illinois Parole Hearing Process
One of the primary issues with the Illinois parole hearing process is that its board operates with nearly zero outside oversight. Illinois laws allow for the board’s decisions to be shielded from court review, and its decision-making processes withheld from the public.
As a result, parole applicants, their families, and their support systems are largely left in the dark. An experienced legal professional, however, will have an intimate working knowledge of the parole hearing process.
This means that the right legal team will be able to offer sound advice on how your case should be managed in front of the board. In the meantime, here is a set of basic procedures for every Illinois parole hearing.
Five Steps to a Board Vote
The following five steps aid in a calculation of factors that the Illinois Prisoner Review Board uses to determine when an inmate ultimately becomes eligible for parole. They are:
- An Illinois inmate and/or their experienced legal team prepares a petition for parole, and a single Illinois board member is assigned to interview the inmate seeking parole release.
- Any victims are notified of the request and have an opportunity to officially oppose the release. At the same time, community members who support or oppose an inmate’s release are also free to submit letters and petitions.
- Once all documentation, including letters, petitions, and an inmate’s history inside the prison, has been collected and compiled into an inmate’s master file, the single board member reviews it in its entirety.
- At that point, the assigned parole board member presents the case to the full board for evaluation. At that meeting, one supporter and one opposer are each granted an opportunity to address the board.
- Finally, the board votes to grant or deny the inmate’s petition for parole release. Note that the prisoner is not allowed to be present during the vote.
The goal is for the Illinois parole board to determine whether an inmate is eligible for parole at the time of the hearing. A “yes” vote means parole is granted, while a “no” vote means the inmate continues to serve their sentence until the next hearing — usually between two and five more years down the road.
An Insider’s Look
The most frustrating part for many Illinois inmates is the subjectivity involved in this process. Prisoners who have experienced a near-win in one hearing may receive fewer votes in the next — regardless of whether any change in circumstance has occurred.
There are a few key observations that, while they may be unfair, still appear to carry weight in Illinois parole release decisions today. (The following opinions come from professional observation and experience, not reported statistics.)
Remorse and Regret — Regardless of Innocence or Guilt
When an inmate fails to show remorse or regret for their actions or involvement in a crime, they are less likely to be granted parole. This seems to be true even when they have maintained their innocence for their entire sentence.
Private Pleas from the Families of Victims
A victim’s family’s pleas to keep a prisoner incarcerated seem to carry an indeterminate amount of weight, for instance. This is particularly difficult to gauge because those pleas are shielded from both inmate and attorney review.
The Court of Public Opinion
The court of public opinion can be a decision-altering factor as well. In particularly high-profile cases, there are a handful of current board members who have publicly stated they would never consider release regardless of statements made to the contrary at sentencing.
These scenarios are where working with the right law firm can make all the difference in the outcome of your parole hearing.
You will decide together on how to best present your petition for parole release with the board — without compromising your own core beliefs or relinquishing your rights.
A Legal Team That Fights for Illinois Inmates’ Rights
Illinois inmates do not retain their full constitutional rights while they are in prison, and some are not reinstated even after incarceration is over.
However, all prisoners are afforded some rights and protections under the Constitution. Here are four primary examples:
- The First Amendment protects inmates’ right to speech and religion so long as it doesn’t interfere with their status as an inmate.
- The Eighth Amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishment and protects the right to a minimum standard of living.
- In the Fourteenth Amendment, under the Equal Protection Clause, prison inmates are protected from unequal treatment based on creed, race, or gender.
- The Model Sentencing and Corrections Act protects prisoners from discrimination on the basis of gender, national origin, race, or religion.
Additionally, every Illinois inmate is entitled to the right to due process. This includes the ability to access and petition the parole board, as well as access to Illinois courts. As an inmate, if you feel your rights have been violated, it is important to seek legal counsel on how to address the violation as soon as possible.
Giving Yourself the Best Chance at Making Parole in Illinois
In our state, it is not mandatory for an inmate to hire an attorney for a parole hearing. In fact, prisoners often rely on themselves and/or family members to do the legwork on their presentation to the board.
While you may be capable of a clear, thorough, and practiced presentation for your hearing, it still may not be as effective or efficient as partnering with legal professionals who understand how the parole system works. Nothing substitutes for a law degree or actual experience securing parole releases in Illinois.
Your lawyer is someone who can successfully reveal the human being behind the inmate number in front of the parole board members. They can demonstrate you have a life waiting for you outside and people who care about you waiting for your release.
They can also demonstrate how your strong support network outside of prison will keep you from returning to prison by creating a well-developed plan post-release. This should include things like where you plan to live, work, and what it will take to help you continue down a path of success.
Remember, parole is a privilege, not a right. Your parole hearing is your one chance to convince the Illinois Parole Board to grant that privilege to you. Having an established Illinois defense attorney at the helm can make navigating the hearing process far more likely to succeed.
Reach out today for more information.