Tomorrow, DC Councilmember Charles Allen (Ward 6), Chair of the Council’s Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, will hold a public oversight roundtable on “Local Control of Parole in the District of Columbia” to explore restoring local control of the federal agency that handles DC parole functions.
The oversight roundtable begins tomorrow, May 6, at 9:30 am. It will be streamed on the Council’s website and Councilmember Allen’s Facebook page: www.facebook.com/CMCharlesAllen. The Committee will hear from formerly incarcerated residents, advocates, and government agencies about their thoughts on the current process and the path forward.
Currently, the US Parole Commission, a federal agency, makes rulings on hearing examiners’ reviews of parole petitions from DC residents who are incarcerated in federal prisons across the country. They do so isolated from the values and input of DC residents. No DC residents serve as members of the Commission. In all 50 states, the decisions around parole are reserved to the states. Only because DC lacks statehood and autonomy is this unjust arrangement the case.
“Taking back parole functions is a statehood issue, absolutely. But having local control is also key to a functioning criminal justice system as a whole,” said Councilmember Allen. “Parole is supposed to be promised to those who have served their time and shown growth and rehabilitation. If it’s an empty promise and only results in a never-ending sentence, it undermines all the efforts our residents make during incarceration to heal the harm they’ve caused and better themselves.”
The Council will hear from public and government witnesses on the impacts of the current parole system and the importance of local control, as well as suggestions for alternatives. Government witnesses will include the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice, the Office of the Attorney General, and the Public Defender Service.
“Giving up parole authority was part of the terrible deal the District made in the late 90’s that ceded our power over large portions of our criminal justice system to the federal government. And it’s well past time to start unraveling that mistake,” said Councilmember Charles Allen.
Restoring local control of parole was a priority identified by the District Jails and Justice Task Force, which released its full recommendations earlier this year. The Task Force was created through funding identified by Councilmember Allen for the purposes of reimagining our criminal justice system.