Illinois Department of Corrections Will Appoint Lawyers to Represent Parole Violators

The Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) has entered into a settlement agreement that will provide a process by which parolees will learn their rights and receive representation of lawyers during their parole revocation process.

There was no availability of assigned legal counsel for parole violators before this agreement.  This agreement was reached with the Department of Corrections in a case that was represented by Alan S. Mills of the Uptown People’s Law Center.  The U.S. District Court Judge Amy St. Eve of the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago approved the agreement on a preliminary basis.

According to the lawsuit, the state cites a lack of funds when it denies any parolee’s request for appointed counsel during revocation proceedings.  But that practice violates due process requirements found in the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion, Gagnon v. Scarpelli, 411 U.S. 778 (1973).

In that case, the U.S. Supreme Court held that parolees should receive counsel and revocation hearings if an alleged parole violator makes that timely request, has a colorable claim that he or she did not commit the alleged violation or present substantial reasons why revocation would be inappropriate in the face of an uncontested parole violation.

The plaintiffs’ lawsuit alleged that although most IDOC parole violators fit that mold, they still go through a “byzantine and complex” revocation process by which the parolees – who oftentimes have education or mental deficiencies – must read “dense and incomprehensible” charges against them, decide too quickly how to proceed and then wait to endure hearings that down offer them the benefit the state has gathered for its case.

The lawsuit also alleged parole violators get their parole revoked even if the initial charges that led to the revocation proceedings were dropped.  Their two-year, state-budget dependent settlement with the IDOC and Illinois Prisoner Review Board (IPRB) addresses all of those alleged shortcomings, starting with the parolees’ ability to learn their rights.

According to this settlement agreement, the parolees will be provided with a document outlining their alleged violations in “simple, clear and concise” language within five days of the violation warrant going into “served status.”

“The IDOC and the IPRB will work to ensure that the parole revocation process is conducted in a fair and impartial manner and that alleged parole violators have access to an attorney throughout the hearing process.”

In addition to the Mr. Mills, Sheila Bedi of the MacArthur Justice Center also represented the plaintiffs in this important case.

If a parolee requests an appointed attorney, the alleged violator will then request an indigency form for consideration before a Prisoner Review Board member or hearing officer.  Such request will be assessed in accordance with the standard set forth in the Gagnon case or any other Supreme Court case which clarifies or modifies that decision. To save costs, the Prisoner Review Board can arrange to get attorneys from public defenders’ offices or private counsel who will work pro bono.

Moises Morales, et al. v. Adam Monrea, et al., 13 cv 7572.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling civil jury trials, catastrophic injury cases and medical negligence cases for individuals and families who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of another for more than 40 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas.   Robert D. Kreisman has been an active member of several local committees and subcommittees working on the reform of the criminal justice system.