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ACLU suit: Parole hearings via video violate federal law

January 27, 2012 | Hogan Keyser
prison_cell.jpgJanuary 26, 2012 via -- Parole hearings conducted via video conferencing violate federal law guaranteeing inmates' basic legal right to face their accusers in person, the ACLU alleges in a civil rights lawsuit.

The complaint, filed Thursday by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California on behalf of Terminal Island inmates Christian Davis and John Paul Morrow, asks that a federal judge allow inmates the opportunity to appear in person at parole hearings if they so wish.

Davis and Morrow, who are inmates at Terminal Island Federal Prison, allegedly have been forced to have at least two parole hearings by video conference, according to the lawsuit.

By conducting parole hearings via video thousands of miles from their location, the state Parole Commission prevents inmates who are eligible for parole from presenting documents that may be essential to the examiner in determining whether to grant or deny parole, the suit contends.

In addition, studies show that inmates are less likely to be believed when testifying by video, according to the ACLU/SC.

"It is hard to overstate what the possibility of parole means to someone who has been imprisoned for decades," said Jessica Price, staff attorney for the ACLU/SC.

"Given the importance of parole hearings, Congress wisely chose to insist that they be conducted in person," she said. "We call on the Parole Commission to cease its practice of circumventing federal law by denying to federal inmates this basic legal right."

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