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What are the ways I can participate in the hearing?

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Below are the different options that victims/survivors have for participating (or not) in the parole hearing.

Information about how the law defines the categories of victims/survivors mentioned below is available here.

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Options If Attending the Hearing 

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For any victim/survivor who wishes to attend the hearing, it is best if the victim/survivor is registered with OVSRS. Instructions for how to register are available here.

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  • Each direct victim and “next of kin” may have up to 2 representatives and 1 support person with them at the hearing.
  • Each immediate family member may have 1 support person with them at the hearing.

Victims/survivors may attend the hearing and just listen, or they may give a victim impact statement (on their own behalf, or through a representative or the district attorney, if either of these is present).

More information about victim impact statements is available here.

  • Give a statement personally (for direct victims, “next of kin,” family members, and representatives).
  • Give a statement through a representative (for direct victims and “next of kin”).

Note: The transcripts of parole hearings are publicly available. Victim impact statements shared or read at the hearing will be part of a public hearing transcript. The victim/survivor’s full name will be included in the transcript (unless the person is the direct victim of a sexual assault and has requested, in advance, not to use their real name).

  • Submit a victim impact statement prior to the hearing for the Panel’s consideration, but not share a statement at the hearing.

Note: A victim impact statement submitted prior to the hearing may be shared with the incarcerated person, their attorney, or the district attorney unless the victim/survivor requests that it be deemed confidential and CDCR agreesGenerally, statements submitted by victims/survivors are reviewed by staff and victim/survivor addresses and any other sensitive information is redacted before the statement is shared with hearing participants or made part of the record. 

More information about victim impact statements, and requesting that a victim impact statement be deemed confidential, is available here.

If the hearing is a “video” hearing, victims/survivors may attend:

  • Via video (and they may choose whether/when to have their camera on or off) or
  • Via phone

If the hearing is “in person,” victims/survivors may choose to attend:

  • In person at the prison
  • Via video (and they may choose whether/when to have their camera on or off) or
  • Via phone

Information about whether the hearing is “video” or “in person” will be in any notification about the parole hearing, and is also available from OVSRS. Information about how the Board determines whether a hearing will be “video” or “in person” is available here.

Victims/survivors do NOT have to be present for the entire hearing. Victim/survivor requests to excuse themselves from certain parts of the hearing should be made in advance if possible, and the Panel conducting the hearing will accommodate such requests as much as they can. 

Below are some examples of requests victims/survivors can make:

  • Not to be present for the discussion of the crime
  • Not to be present for the incarcerated person’s closing statement
  • Not to be present for the decision
  • To be informed about the decision before the Panel announces it
  • To only be present to give the victim impact statement and skip all other parts of the hearing

Note: It is up to the Panel whether/how to accommodate these requests. The Panel will do everything they can to support the victims/survivors’ needs, but in some instances, it may not be possible.

Victims/survivors appearing by video may mute their computer at any time during the hearing if there is discussion they do not want to hear. If victims/survivors wish to avoid discussion of a particular topic, they should inform the Panel of this in advance if at all possible so the Panel can try to communicate to them when the topic is concluded and they can unmute. 

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Options If NOT Attending the Hearing

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For any victim/survivor who wishes to submit a victim impact statement, it is best if the victim/survivor is registered with OVSRS. Instructions for how to register are available here.

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  • Direct victims and “next of kin” each may send up to 2 representatives to the hearing in their place.
  • Direct victims, “next of kin,” and immediate family members may send legal counsel to the hearing in their place.

Victims/survivors may submit a victim impact statement prior to the hearing, or share a statement at the hearing through a representative, legal counsel, or the district attorney, if any of these are present.

Victims/survivors can also choose NOT to share a victim impact statement, either in advance, or through another person who attends the hearing.

More information about victim impact statements is available here.

  • Send a representative to speak on the victim/survivor’s behalf and/or read their victim impact statement (for direct victims and “next of kin”).
  • Send legal counsel to speak on the victim/survivor’s behalf and/or read their victim impact statement (for direct victims, “next of kin,” and family members).
  • Ask the district attorney, if one will attend the hearing, to read the victim impact statement.

Note: The transcripts of parole hearings are publicly available. Victim impact statements shared or read at the hearing will be part of a public hearing transcript. The victim/survivor’s full name will be included in the transcript (unless the person is the direct victim of a sexual assault and has requested, in advance, not to use their real name).

  • Submit a victim impact statement in advance of the hearing for the Panel’s consideration (for direct victims, “next of kin,” family members, and representatives).
    • The statement may be in writing, or audio or video recorded. Recorded statements should be accompanied by a written transcription of the recording. 

Note: A victim impact statement submitted prior to the hearing may be shared with the incarcerated person, their attorney, or the district attorney unless the victim/survivor requests that it be deemed confidential and CDCR agrees. Generally, statements submitted by victims/survivors are reviewed by staff and victim/survivor addresses and any other sensitive information is redacted before the statement is shared with hearing participants or made part of the record. 

More information about victim impact statements, and requesting that a victim impact statement be deemed confidential, is available here.

About 30 days after a parole hearing, a transcript of the hearing becomes available. Victims/survivors can access instructions to request a copy of the transcript here. Electronic copies are available free of charge.

For some victims/survivors, the most healthy choice they can make for themselves is to not participate in the parole hearing process at all. 

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How do I decide how to participate?

The decision about how (or whether) to participate in the parole hearing process is deeply personal and can be very difficult. We encourage victims/survivors to make the choice that feels right to them.

Our Video Gallery includes testimonials from other victims/survivors about the decision whether to participate in the process. We welcome victims/survivors to browse these stories if that feels helpful.

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Once you decide how to participate...

Victims/survivors need to follow certain steps, depending on how they choose to participate. Learn about these steps, and when they need to be completed.

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Share Your Story.

We welcome any victim/survivor to share their story with us if that opportunity feels helpful to them.

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Questions?

Victims/survivors can contact OVSRS with any questions about options for participating in the parole hearing process.

OVSRS ofrece servicios bilingües en español.

Support is available in more than 200 languages via phone.

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