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What do I do if I am a victim/survivor?

Learn how to get updates on a case, and the timeline for participating in the parole hearing process.

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Staying Informed

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One of the things a victim/survivor can choose to do is stay informed about significant events in the case of the person who caused them harm. The choice whether to stay informed is a personal one that each victim/survivor should make based on what feels right to them.

When a person enters prison after being convicted of a crime, it may be many years, or even decades, before they have their first parole hearing. Even if a victim/survivor desires updates about the case, it will likely be many years before there are any. Information about when a person’s first hearing may happen, based on the type of sentence they have, is available here.

There are two primary ways for a victim/survivor to obtain updates:

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Register with OVSRS

Victims/survivors can request notification of upcoming hearings or any change in the incarcerated person’s “custody status” from the Office of Victim and Survivor Rights and Services (OVSRS). For victims/survivors who may want to participate in the parole hearing process, registration with OVSRS is very helpful.

OVSRS ofrece servicios bilingües en español. Support is available in more than 200 languages via phone.

Once a victim/survivor submits this request, they are “registered” with OVSRS and will automatically receive updates of any of the following events:

  • Parole Hearing
  • Release
  • Death
  • Execution
  • Escape
  • Name/gender change
  • Contract

Victims/survivors may register with OVSRS at any time after the person who caused harm in their case is convicted and sentenced.

To register with OVSRS and request notifications: Follow instructions for submitting a CDCR Form 1707 to OVSRS here. (El formulario 1707 está disponible en español.) Victims/survivors may complete the form online, or print the form and submit it to OVSRS via mail, email, or fax. 

Victims/survivors may elect to receive notifications by email or mail, and must keep their contact information current with OVSRS to ensure they receive updates.

If a victim/survivor has requested notice, the California Board of Parole Hearings (Board) must notify them of an upcoming parole hearing at least 90 days before the hearing. 

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CDCR’s California Incarcerated Records and Information Search (CIRIS) 

Any member of the public can find information on any person incarcerated in the California Department of Correction and Rehabilitation (CDCR) by using the “California Incarcerated Records and Information Search” or CIRIS, which is available on CDCR’s website.

To find information about an incarcerated person, access CIRIS and search for the person using their first and last name or their CDCR number.

Note: It is best to use a person’s CDCR number if the person has a common name. OVSRS can provide the correct CDCR number.

Click on the person’s name to go to the page with their basic information. The page will list “Board of Parole Hearing’s Actions,” which includes the incarcerated person’s parole hearing history and any scheduled hearings. Parole hearings are scheduled approximately 6 months in advance.

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Timeline for Victim/Survivor Participation

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Parole hearings are scheduled 180 days in advance. OVSRS often reaches out to victims/survivors (whether they are registered or not) up to 180 days before the parole hearing to provide information, offer its services, and see if the victims/survivors are interested in participating in the hearing.

For victims/survivors who are registered with OVSRS (that is, they submitted a CDCR Form 1707), OVSRS will notify them of an upcoming hearing at least 90 days before the hearing, provided their contact information on file is current.

The notification from OVSRS will include information about whether the parole hearing will be an “in person” hearing or a “video” hearing. Currently, most hearings are video hearings. Information about how the Board decides which type of hearing to schedule is available here. More information about the different options for participation at both in-person and video hearings is available here.

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

Our Video Gallery includes many testimonials from other victims/survivors on such topics as deciding whether to participate in a parole hearing, suggestions for victim impact statements, experiences attending the parole hearing, and advice for engaging in the process. We welcome victims/survivors to browse these stories if that feels helpful. These stories are available here.

Victim/survivors may share victim impact statements for the Panel’s consideration.  A victim/survivor who is approved to attend the parole hearing may share a statement verbally at the hearing without submitting it in advance, although they may submit it in advance if they choose to. 

Victims/survivors may also submit impact statements before the hearing instead of, or in addition to, attending and sharing at the hearing itself. Written victim impact statements may be submitted any time before the hearing.

Victims/survivors may also submit a video or audio recording of their impact statement, although the recording must be accompanied by a written transcript of the recording. Recorded statements should be submitted, along with a written transcript, at least 21 days prior to the hearing.

OVSRS will attempt to accommodate sharing statements submitted after this deadline, but it is NOT guaranteed that these statements will be provided for the Panel’s consideration.

Statements submitted in advance may be read at a parole hearing or referred to at a hearing. They may also be shared with the incarcerated person, their attorney, or the district attorney.

To submit a statement:

Victims/survivors do NOT have to attend the parole hearing in order for the statement they submit to be considered.

More information about victim impact statements is available here.

Victims/survivors have a right to attend parole hearings and, in some cases, to have representatives and support persons. However, every person who plans to attend the parole hearing must request to attend and go through an approval process – their ability to attend is NOT automatic. California law requires that direct victims, victim’s next of kin, victim family members, designated representatives, and support persons submit a request to participate in a parole hearing to OVSRS (and designate any representatives and/or support persons) at least 15 days before the hearing. 

OVSRS will attempt to accommodate requests made after these deadlines, but approval is NOT guaranteed.

There is no deadline to request an OVSRS staff member to attend a hearing and act as a support person. 

More information about which victims/survivors may participate in a parole hearing, and who may act as a representative or support person, is available here.

To request to attend a hearing, submit a request in one of the following ways:

Note: Victims/survivors do NOT have to attend the hearing to submit a victim impact statement. Any victim/survivor may submit a written victim impact at any time before the hearing (see below). Victims/survivors who are approved to attend the hearing may submit a written statement in advance, although they may also choose to just speak at the hearing without submitting a written statement.

Attending a hearing in person: For some hearings, victims/survivors may only attend the hearing via video or phone. At some hearings, victims/survivors have the option of attending the hearing in person at the prison. In these cases, any victim/survivor attending in person must obtain a security clearance from the prison where the hearing will occur. OVSRS can assist with this process. Information about when victims/survivors have the option to attend in person at the prison is available here.

Victim/survivors may share victim impact statements for the Panel’s consideration.  A victim/survivor who is approved to attend the parole hearing may share a statement verbally at the hearing without submitting it in advance, although they may submit it in advance if they choose to. 

Victims/survivors may also submit impact statements before the hearing instead of, or in addition to, attending and sharing at the hearing itself. Written victim impact statements may be submitted any time before the hearing.

Statements submitted in advance may be read at a parole hearing or referred to at a hearing. They may also be shared with the incarcerated person, their attorney, or the district attorney.

However, a statement deemed confidential by CDCR will not be read at a parole hearing or provided to the public or the hearing participants. It may be reviewed by the hearing Panel, the Board, or the Governor (when the hearing decision is reviewed).

If a victim/survivor wants their written impact statement to be deemed confidential, the words “CONFIDENTIAL” or “REVIEW BY HEARING PANEL ONLY” should be placed at the top of the statement or email to the Board or OVSRS. Written confidential statements must be submitted at least 10 days prior to the hearing. Audio or video recorded confidential statements must be submitted, along with a transcript of the recording, at least 21 days prior to the hearing.

CDCR will determine if the victim impact statement meets the criteria to be deemed confidential. CDCR makes this decision based on whether the statement contains information or material that, if known by the incarcerated person, could reasonably be expected to incite animosity or potentially endanger the victim or the victim’s family. If the statement is NOT deemed confidential, it may be read at a parole hearing or referred to at a hearing. It may also be shared with the incarcerated person, their attorney, or the district attorney.

To submit a statement:

Victims/survivors do NOT have to attend the parole hearing in order for the statement they submit to be considered.

More information about victim impact statements is available here.

Victim/survivors may share victim impact statements for the Panel’s consideration.  A victim/survivor who is approved to attend the parole hearing may share a statement verbally at the hearing without submitting it in advance, although they may submit it in advance if they choose to. 

Victims/survivors may also submit impact statements before the hearing instead of, or in addition to, attending and sharing at the hearing itself. Written victim impact statements may be submitted any time before the hearing.

Statements submitted in advance may be read at a parole hearing or referred to at a hearing. They may also be shared with the incarcerated person, their attorney, or the district attorney.

To submit a statement:

Victims/survivors do NOT have to attend the parole hearing in order for the statement they submit to be considered.

More information about victim impact statements is available here.

Decisions at parole hearings are not final. They are subject to review by the Board and the Governor’s Office. This process can take up to 150 days after the hearing.

Victims/survivors may participate in this review process in various ways, depending on the case. More information is available here.

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Questions?

Victims/survivors can reach out to OVSRS via phone, email, or online LiveChat at any time with questions.

OVSRS ofrece servicios bilingües en español.

Support is available in more than 200 languages via phone.

Learn more