Illinois Agrees to Reform of Parole Revocation Process; Landmark Settlement Will Provide Attorneys to Parolees Unable to Afford Legal Counsel in Revocation Hearings
A federal class action lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Illinois’ parole revocation process has been resolved with a guarantee that attorneys will be provided to eligible parolees and an agreement the state will take additional steps to bring fairness to the process of determining whether a parolee must return to prison due to a parole violation.
U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve approved the settlement agreement reached with the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) and the Illinois Prisoner Review Board (IPRB). Plaintiffs were represented by the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center and the Uptown People’s Law Center.
“The terms of the settlement, if implemented correctly, will guarantee that many parolees throughout the Illinois will receive state-funded attorneys to represent them throughout the revocation process,” said Alexa Van Brunt, an attorney with the MacArthur Justice Center and Clinical Assistant Professor of Law at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law. “In addition, all parolees will receive key due process protections, including being informed of the evidence being used against them, the right to present a defense on their behalf and written findings at each stage of the process,” Van Brunt said. “Timelines will be set to speed the process and ensure that parolees do not languish in prison cells before IPRB determines whether they actually have violated terms of their parole.”
Illinois to Comply with 1973 U.S. Supreme Court Decision Requiring Due Process for Parole Revocations
State agrees to provide attorneys to poor people facing re-imprisonment as part of class action settlement
The state of Illinois will provide attorneys to eligible parolees who are accused of violating their parole, and will overhaul the parole revocation to ensure that the hearing process is fair and adheres to the requirements of the U.S. Constitution, according to terms of a settlement of a federal lawsuit. U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve granted the settlement preliminary approval on Oct. 27 and scheduled a Jan. 25 fairness hearing, during which the court will consider any objections to the settlement.
The case against the Illinois Department of Corrections and the Illinois Prisoner Review Board alleged the state parole revocation process violated due process rights of parolees re-imprisoned for alleged parole violations without an adequate hearing and access to legal counsel.
“Over 28,000 men and women throughout the state of Illinois are on parole and were at risk of having their lives disrupted by Illinois’ byzantine and dysfunctional parole revocation system,” said Sheila A. Bedi, Associate Clinical Professor of Law at the Northwestern School of Law and an attorney with the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center. “This settlement will provide essential protections for people going through the parole revocation process and, if implemented correctly, should significantly reduce the number of people are re-imprisoned for parole violations.”
Attorneys for the MacArthur Justice Center and Uptown People’s Law Center filed the class action civil rights case in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in 2013.
Read the complete news release
Proposed settlement agreement
Motion for preliminary approval of agreement
Motion for class certification
Updated - 10/27/2016
Parole Revocation Hearings Result in the Arbitrary Imprisonment of Thousands of Illinoisans, Civil Rights Lawsuit Charges
People released from state prisons routinely have their constitutional rights violated and are re-imprisoned for alleged parole violations without a fair hearing, access to legal counsel or the ability to cross-examine witnesses and review evidence presented at "sham" hearings, according to a class action lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court against the directors of the Illinois Prisoner Review Board (PRB) and the Illinois Department of Corrections (DOC) and Governor Pat Quinn.
More than 10,000 unlawful parole revocations hearings are held in Illinois each year. The hearings typically last five minutes or less, and nearly all end with the imprisonment of the alleged parole violator, even when courts have dismissed the criminal charges that prompted the hearings in the first place, according to the complaint
Filed by the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center and the Uptown People's Law Center, the class action civil rights case describes a "procedural vortex" that rotates people in and out of the prison system-often on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations. Once people are re-imprisoned, they are subjected to a "byzantine and complex" process where parolees are pressured to make decisions and argue for their freedom without any advice from a lawyer, which is a direct violation of their constitutional rights.
MacArthur Justice Center attorneys Alexa Van Brunt and Sheila Bedi are handling the suit.
Updated - 10/23/2013
Lawsuit targets Illinois’ “Kafkaesque” policy of keeping thousands in prison after sentences completed
More than a dozen public policy and justice reform advocates have asked the Illinois Supreme Court to order an end to a “Kafkaesque” state policy that has resulted in the needless incarceration of thousands of Illinoisans eligible for parole but unable to afford housing approved by the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC).
For nearly 10 years, the IDOC and the Illinois Prisoner Review Board have used a “turnaround” policy to keep thousands of individuals, most of them originally imprisoned for a sex offense, in prison solely because they cannot afford to live in housing IDOC finds adequate with little to no explanation to the incarcerated and no way to appeal that decision.
“This policy subjects citizens of this State who are no longer serving a prison sentence to months and even years of detention, without redress or remedy,” according to the brief submitted by attorneys for the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center and Uptown People’s Law Center.
Amicus Brief (pdf)
Updated - 03/10/2014