SACRAMENTO — The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) began this week implementing newly enacted provisions of the Victims’ Bill of Rights Act of 2008 that expand crime victims’ rights and change life prisoner parole suitability hearings. CDCR has also launched a new webpage for victim disclosures related to the new law. Also known as “Marsy’s Law,” Proposition 9 was passed by voters on Nov. 4, 2008 and certified by the Secretary of State on Dec. 13, 2008.
“Marsy’s Law amended California’s Constitution to give victims additional rights of notice and allow for greater participation in various components of the criminal justice system,” said Sandi Menefee, Assistant Secretary of CDCR’s Office of Victim and Survivor Rights of Services (OVSRS). “CDCR has a long history of ensuring victims are notified of their rights, given opportunities to provide input into special conditions of parole, and given notification for parole consideration hearings. Our agency is also responsible for ensuring that direct orders for restitution are collected for victims.”
Marsy’s Law impacts the timeframes for notices to victims and victims’ next of kin. Since the passage of Proposition 9 on November 4, OVSRS has worked cooperatively with every division within the CDCR affected by the passage of the new law in order to ensure staff would be ready to implement these provisions as soon as the proposition was certified.
“We are ready to embrace the new changes,” Menefee said.
Lifer Parole Suitability Hearings
Marsy’s Law also fundamentally alters life prisoner parole suitability hearings and expands victims’ rights in parole proceedings for offenders sentenced to life with the possibility of parole.
“Parole commissioners have been trained on the new provisions of Marsy’s Law and beginning December 15, all lifer hearings are subject to the new law,” said Martin Hoshino, Executive Officer of the Board of Parole Hearings (BPH). “We have also been communicating with our deputy commissioners and BPH staff at the state’s adult institutions at every public, private and working meeting since voters approved the proposition to inform them of these changes.”
Parole Revocation Hearings
Proposition 9 also changed timelines and procedures for parole revocation hearings. However, on December 5, Judge Lawrence K. Karlton with the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of California, ordered those portions not be implemented in response to a motion filed by plaintiffs in the Valdivia v. Schwarzenegger class action lawsuit, which had previously challenged the constitutionality of parole revocation proceedings. A hearing on the motion is scheduled for March 9, 2009.
Provisions of the Victims Bill of Rights Act of 2008
In addition to the above mentioned changes, Marsy’s Law:
- Expands the definition of a victim;
- Expands the scope of persons allowed to act as victim representatives at parole hearings;
- Allows victims to attend lifer parole hearings without being asked questions by the prisoner or the prisoner’s attorney;
- Requires the BPH, when setting a date for a parole grant, give meaningful consideration to whether the inmate should be released to parole;
- Increases the length of denials from 1-5 year denials to 3-, 5-, 7-, 10-, or 15-year denials;
- Requires that the BPH give registered victims and victims’ next of kin 90 days notice of all parole proceedings or other post-conviction release proceedings, rather than 30 days;
- Allows the victim, next of kin, members of the victim’s family (not just the immediate family) and two representatives to appear personally to express their views about a prisoner and the case;
- Requires a web page for victim disclosures related to the new law. Information about the Victims’ Bill of Rights Act of 2008: CDCR’s “Marsy’s Law” site can be found at http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/Divisions_Boards/BOPH/marsys_law.html. The website also has information on how to register as a victim of crime in order to receive notice of future parole consideration hearings, how to request a hearing transcript, and how to contact CDCR’s Office of Victim and Survivor Rights and Services.