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Which victims/survivors can participate?

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Who Can Attend a Parole Hearing

The following victims/survivors have the right to attend a parole hearing. 

As a reminder: Every person who plans to attend the hearing must request to attend and be approved in advance. They cannot attend automatically. Information about the steps to follow to attend a parole hearing, and the applicable timeline, is available here.

Direct Victims 

  • Direct victims may attend the hearing.
  • Direct victims may have up to 2 representatives and 1 support person per direct victim. 
  • Direct victims may send legal counsel to the hearing in their place. 

Accordion

  • A person who suffered from any crime committed by the incarcerated person, including the commitment crimes, determinate term commitment crimes for which the incarcerated person has been paroled, and any other felony crimes or crimes against the person for which the inmate has been convicted.
  • It does not include: a person in custody for an offense, the accused, or a person whom the court finds would not act in the best interests of a minor victim.

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“Next of Kin”

  • If the victim is deceased or incapacitated, the legally designated “next of kin(s)” may attend.
  • Next of kin may have up to 2 representatives and 1 support person per legal next of kin. 
  • Next of kin may send legal counsel to the hearing in their place.

Note: Many people – even CDCR and Board staff – often incorrectly use the acronym “VNOK” (pronounced vee-knock) to broadly refer to anyone who is related to the victim, was harmed by the crime, or may participate in the parole process. This can be confusing because that is NOT what VNOK means. VNOK stands for “victim’s next of kin,” which has a very specific definition under the law, and which is used to determine, not only who can attend a hearing, but also who can bring a representative. Not everyone who is referred to as a “VNOK” in casual conversation is a legally designated “next of kin” who may bring representatives to the hearing.

Accordion

If the direct victim is deceased, the law designates a person(s) as the official “next of kin.” Information about whether someone is the legally designated “next of kin” is available here.

Note: Even if a family member of the direct victim does NOT qualify as the legally designated “next of kin” (allowing them to attend the hearing with a representative), they may still be able to attend the hearing and participate in the parole process (see below).

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“Immediate” Family Members

  • Members of the direct victim’s “immediate” family (even if they are not the legally designated “next of kin”) may attend.
  • These family members may have up to 1 support person each.  
  • These family members may send legal counsel to the hearing in their place.

Accordion

Members of the direct victim’s “immediate family” are the victim’s:

  • Spouse
  • Children
  • Parents
  • Siblings
  • Grandchildren
  • Grandparents related by blood, marriage, or adoption

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Who can be a victim representative?

  • A representative can be any adult person selected by the victim, or by the “next of kin” if the victim is deceased or incapacitated. 
  • The representative must be designated in writing prior to the hearing by the victim, or by the “next of kin” where the victim is deceased or incapacitated.
  • If the victims/survivors appear in person for the parole hearing, depending on the space available in the hearing room at the institution, the Panel conducting the hearing may rotate representatives and support persons in and out of the room.

Who can be a victim support person?

  • A support person can be any adult person selected by a direct victim, “next of kin,” or family member who attends a parole hearing.  
  • The support person must be designated in writing prior to the hearing by the direct victim, “next of kin,” or family member who plans to attend.
  • The support person may NOT participate or make comments during the hearing.
  • If the victims/survivors appear in person for the parole hearing, depending on the space available in the hearing room at the institution, the Panel conducting the hearing may rotate representatives and support persons in and out of the room.

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Timeline for Requesting to Attend

As a reminder: Each of these individuals must be approved to attend the parole hearing – they cannot attend automatically. Also, victims/survivors need to designate their chosen representatives and/or support people in advance of the hearing. These requests need to be submitted in advance of the hearing.

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.

Information about how to request to attend a hearing is available here.

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Questions?

Victims/survivors can contact OVSRS with any questions about who may participate in the parole hearing process, or how to request to attend a parole hearing.

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Support is available in more than 200 languages via phone.

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