Representation at Hearings

Prisoners are entitled to legal representation at parole hearings on a second-degree life sentence, parole rescission hearings, preliminary parole revocation hearings, and final parole revocation hearings, but are generally not entitled to legal representation at other parole release hearings. At the preliminary and final revocation hearings, parolees must be informed of their right to be represented by an attorney or law student, or by someone qualified to assist the parolee if he/she has a disability or condition that makes it difficult to understand or communicate. 120 CMR 303.12(2), 303.23(7) [PDF].

Although prisoners do not ordinarily have the right to counsel at a release hearing, the parole hearing panel may, in its discretion, permit a qualified individual to represent an inmate who, because of a mental, psychiatric, medical, physical condition or language barrier is not competent to offer testimony at or understand the proceedings of an initial release or review hearing. 120 CMR 308(2)(b).

Under some circumstances, and particularly when an indigent parolee faces a significant risk of re-imprisonment in parole revocation proceedings, he or she has a right to appointed counsel paid for by the Commonwealth. See Gagnon v. Scarpelli, 411 U.S. 778, 782, n.3 (1973); Commonwealth v. Patton, 458 Mass. 119 (Mass. 2010); Marsh v. Mass. Parole Bd., No. Civ. A. 97-3751-B, 1997 WL 781443 (Mass. Super. Nov. 21, 1997). In order to be appointed counsel, a parolee must request it.

In the event that you or your loved one is facing a hearing on a second degree life sentence, rescission or revocation, while PLS cannot represent you, you may be able to obtain representation through one of the following law school programs:

PLAP (Prisoner Legal Assistance Project) at Harvard Law School
6 Everett Street, Suite 5107
Harvard Law School
Cambridge, MA 02138
(617) 495-3969
(617) 495-3127 (prisoner hotline; collect)
Provides representation at disciplinary hearings; parole rescission/ revocation and 15-year (second-degree lifer) parole hearings, as well as some DDU hearings, and assistance with sentence calculation, lost property and denial of visitation. Covers all Massachusetts prisons.

Prisoner Assistance Project at Northeastern University School of Law
Dockser Hall 140
65 Forsyth Street
Boston, MA 02115
(617) 373-3660 (collect)
Available each year September to February only; representation at parole rescission/ revocation and 15 year hearings. Covers major prisons as far from Boston as the Bridgewater complex; usually will not go to Gardner or Shirley.