October 14, 2020
Recently, I submitted the letter below to the DC Jails and Justice Task Force, Local Control Committee. The letter supports the Mayor and the DC Council taking back control of parole which has been in the hands of the U.S. Parole Commission for the last 23 years. The President of the United States appoints people to be Commissioners on the U.S. Parole Commission. The Commission is not accountable in any way to the residents of the District. The letter below outlines the important values and principles that should be the basis for a DC Parole Commission.
October 12, 2020
To: DC Jails & Justice Task Force, Local Control Committee
Re: Local Control of the U.S. Parole Commission
Interfaith Action for Human Rights (IAHR) supports the District taking control of the U.S. Parole Commission at the end of its 2 year mandate from Congress in 2022.
IAHR has been an active participant in both the DC Reentry Task Force and ReThink Justice DC coalition for the last five years. IAHR participated in the discussions that led to the publication of The Parole Revocation Process in DC: What DC Could Accomplish with Local Control.
IAHR also was involved in the creation of the Report, “Establishing Principles for the Creation of a Local Paroling Authority in Washington, DC.”
IAHR especially supports the following recommendations of these two reports:
- Not allowing the paroling authority to incarcerate an individual for “technical” violations;
- Reduce jail incarceration during the revocation process.
- Minimize reliance on incarceration as a sanction.
- Involve community, advocacy and subject-matter expert participation in revocation hearings.
- Mandate data collection and transparency.
- Reduce time on supervision for parolees and individuals on supervised release.
- Adjust the hearing schedule to reduce jail incarceration and encourage alternatives to revocation and incarceration.
IAHR also strongly believes that the Parole Commissioners should be drawn from the residents of the District of Columbia and appointed by the Mayor with the approval of the DC Council.
For over 23 years, the U.S. Parole Commission has not been accountable to the residents of the District of Columbia. Too often the Parole Commission has acted on principles and practices that have not reflected the interests or the values of District residents. The only way the residents of the District can have some say into the practices of a District of Columbia Parole Commission is for it to be appointed by elected officials.
Additionally, IAHR feels strongly that the DC Parole Commission should also be responsible to a Community Review Board that will have the authority to review policies and practices of the Parole Commission and to make recommendations.
Finally, the establishment of a DC Parole Commission responsible to the Mayor, the Council, and the Community will be an important step for establishing a basis for DC Statehood.
IAHR is excited by the prospect of the Paroling Authority returning to the control of the residents of the District of Columbia. It is essential that such a Parole Commission be appointed by elected officials of the District and be open to feedback from the community.
It is very important that the structure of the Parole Commission be established very soon. Taking control of the U.S. Parole Commission is an opportunity for the District to better integrate returning citizens into the community. It is an opportunity take the first step toward Statehood. We will all be judged harshly if we do not seize the day.
Rabbi Charles Feinberg