What rights do I have?
Victim/Survivor Rights in the Parole Hearing Process
Right to Be Notified
Victims/survivors have the right to be notified about significant events in the parole hearing and release process of the incarcerated person who caused harm in their case. These rights apply regardless of the sentence the incarcerated person received. Victims/survivors have the right to receive these notices via telephone, certified mail, regular mail, or email, depending on the victim/survivor’s preference.
Victims/survivors have a right to the following:
- Notice of the parole hearing at least 90 days prior to the hearing.
- Notice of the incarcerated person’s parole or release.
Victims/survivors do NOT receive these notifications automatically. Although they have a right to notifications, they must actually request them. Information about how to request these notifications is available here.
Right to Be Informed
Victims/survivors have the right to be informed of all parole procedures and their rights under California’s Victims’ Bill of Rights. This information can be provided by the Office of Victim and Survivor Rights and Services (OVSRS). Contact information for OVSRS is available here. Also, information about California Victims’ Bill of Rights is available below.
Right to Be Present at the Parole Hearing
Victims/survivors have the right to be present at the parole hearing. In some instances, they also have the right to have a representative and/or support person.
Victims/survivors and their representatives and support people cannot attend automatically – they must request to attend and be approved by OVSRS prior to the hearing. Information about who can attend a parole hearing is available here. Information about how to request to attend, and the timeline for doing so, is available here.
Most parole hearings are “video” hearings that are conducted remotely by video conference. The incarcerated person’s attorney and any interpreter that is needed may or may not be physically present with the incarcerated person at the prison. But all other parties – the Panel that conducts the hearing, the district attorney (if any), and any victim/survivor participants – appear by video.
In some cases, it is determined that the Panel must be physically present with the incarcerated person to ensure they can communicate effectively during the hearing. In this case, the Board schedules an “in person” hearing. At “in person” hearings, any victim/survivor participants have the choice whether to participate via video or phone, or to go to the prison and attend the hearing in person.
Information about how the Board decides whether to conduct a hearing via video or in person is available here. Information about how to attend a hearing, whether via video or in person, is available here.
Right to Participate and to Be Heard
Victims/survivors have the right to participate in the parole hearing process, to provide information for the Board to consider, and to be heard, either on their own behalf or through an attorney or representative.
Victims/survivor have many options in terms of how (and whether) to participate in the parole hearing process. Information about these options is available here.
As a reminder, victims/survivors may need to take steps or make requests in advance of the hearing in order to pursue some options to participate. Information about these steps, and the timeline that applies, is available here.
Right to the Consideration of Victim and Public Safety in Parole Decisions
Victims/survivors have the right to have their safety, and the safety of the general public, considered in parole hearing decisions. Public safety is sole focus of the Board in deciding whether to grant or deny parole. Information about how the Board makes parole decisions is available here.
These rights come from Marsy's Law.
California’s Victims’ Bill of Rights (Marsy’s Law)
In 2008, California voters approved Proposition 9, the “Victims’ Bill of Rights Act of 2008: Marsy’s Law.” This law amended the California Constitution to expand the rights of victims/survivors in criminal processes.
The California Victims’ Bill of Rights provides victims/survivors rights in the criminal process.
Marsy’s Law ensures all victims:
- The right to be treated with fairness and respect for their privacy and dignity.
- The right to be free from intimidation, harassment, and abuse, throughout the criminal or juvenile justice process.
- The right to be well informed and considered throughout all aspects of the criminal legal process.
- This includes:
- The right to notice when decisions are being made about the sentencing or possible release of a person who has harmed a victim/survivor.
- The right to be heard about the impact of the crime at sentencing or release decisions.
- This includes the right to be heard at a parole hearing.
- This includes:
Marsy’s Law defines “victim” to include the following people:
- A person who suffers direct or threatened physical, psychological, or financial harm as a result of a crime or attempted crime.
- The person’s spouse, parents, children, siblings, or guardian.
- A lawful representative of a crime victim who is deceased, a minor, or physically or mentally unable to attend.
- The term “victim” does NOT include a person in custody for an offense, the accused, or a person the court finds would not act in the best interests of a minor victim.
More information about the victims/survivors who can participate in the parole hearing process is available here.
The full text of the California Victims’ Bill of Rights (Marsy’s Law) is available here.
The California Victims Resource Center provides information about victim/survivor rights in California beyond the parole hearing process here.
A list of other organizations that can provide support and information to victims/survivors is available here.