Parole Denial

The Parole Board is statutorily authorized to grant parole “only if the parole board is of the opinion that there is a reasonable probability that, if such prisoner is released, he will live and remain at liberty without violating the law, and that his release is not incompatible with the welfare of society.” MGL c. 127, § 130. The Board is authorized to look at a wide range of materials and factors in making parole determinations, including:

(a) reports and recommendations from parole staff;
(b) official reports of the inmate’s prior criminal record, including a report or record of earlier probation and parole experiences;
(c) any pending cases;
(d) pre-sentence investigation reports;
(e) official reports of the nature and circumstances of the offense including, but not limited to, police reports, grand jury minutes, decisions of the Massachusetts Appeals Court or the Supreme Judicial Court, and transcripts of the trial or of the sentencing hearing;
(f) statements by any victim of the offense for which the offender is imprisoned about the financial, social, psychological, and emotional harm done to or loss suffered by such victim;
(g) reports of physical, medical, mental, or psychiatric examination of the inmate;
(h) any information that the inmate may wish to provide the parole hearing panel including letters of support from family, friends, community leaders, and parole release plans; and
(i) information provided by the custodial authority, including, but not limited to, disciplinary reports, classification reports, work evaluations, and educational achievements. 120 CMR 300.05(1).

Massachusetts prisoners have no protected liberty interest in parole, meaning due process protections are inapplicable. See Quegan v. Massachusetts Parole Bd., 423 Mass. 834, 836-37, N.E.2d 42 (1996). Nonetheless, the Parole Board’s decisions may be challenged through certiorari review when they are allegedly arbitrary, capricious or based on an error of law. See M.G.L. c. 249, § 4; Scott v. Walsh, 68 Mass.App.Ct. 1108, *1-2, 861 N.E.2d 811 (Mass.App.Ct., 2007). An action for certiorari review must be filed within 60 days of the last administrative action (e.g., decision on appeal). However, the Parole Board has considerable discretion and courts are not eager to overturn its decisions. See, e.g. See Hudson v. Walsh, No. 2007–880–C, 2008 WL 517631 (Mass. Super. Ct Feb. 4, 2008); Greenman v. Mass. Parole Bd., 405 Mass. 384, 387 (1989).

However, you have the right to appeal the denial of parole or the imposition of special conditions within 30 days of receiving written notice of the decision. See 120 CMR 304.02(1). Specifically, the regulations state:

An inmate may appeal a decision of a parole hearing panel to deny, rescind or revoke parole. An inmate may also appeal the grant of parole when such release is granted on a date other than the initial parole eligibility date, and/or the imposition of special conditions of parole. Any appeal must be made in writing and within 30 days of the subject’s receipt of written notice of the decision.

120 CMR 304.02(1). If the initial appeal is denied, “the inmate may further appeal to the Full Board within 30 days of receiving notice of the appeal.” 120 CMR 304.02(2). The full Board’s decision is final.

All appeals must be made in writing and submitted to the Institutional Parole Officer, who will inform you of the outcome. Your appeal must specify one or more of the following reasons:

(a) That the decision was not supported by the reasons or facts as stated.
(b) That the decision was based on erroneous information and the actual facts justify a different decision.
(c) That the hearing panel did not follow correct procedure in deciding the case, and a different decision would have resulted if the error had not occurred.
(d) There was significant relevant information in existence but not known to the parole hearing panel at the time of the hearing.
(e) The special conditions of parole are unfair and cannot be obeyed under the circumstances, and should be amended by the Parole Board Members.

120 CMR 304.02(3).

You may also request reconsideration of a Parole Board decision to deny parole or to grant parole subject to special conditions. If you submit your request for reconsideration together with an appeal, you must submit both within 30 days of receiving notice of the decision. Otherwise, if you submit a request for reconsideration on its own, you must wait at least 90 days from the date of notification to do so. A petition for reconsideration must not be based on the same grounds as an appeal or previously-rejected request for reconsideration, and must state facts supporting one or more of the following four grounds:

(a) There is a material change in personal or other circumstances which requires a different decision.
(b) The tasks mandated by the parole hearing panel have been accomplished.
(c) Especially mitigating circumstances justify a different decision.
(d) There are compelling reasons why a more lenient decision should be rendered.

120 CMR 304.03(1).