This past Saturday, the Post-Conviction Justice Project and UnCommon Law, a non-profit legal services provider in Oakland, California that specializes in challenging unlawful prison conditions including the parole consideration process for lifers, hosted the second annual “Lifer School” at the USC Gould School of Law. Over the course of the all-day event, speakers addressed the various aspects of a parole-suitability determination, from both sides of the process.
Attorney Keith Wattley of UnCommon Law, an experienced parole lawyer who has represented thousands of prisoners before all levels of state and federal courts and administrative boards, gave a presentation on the present state of the law. Psychologist Yoshado Lang, Ph.D. discussed the critical role of psychological evaluations and risk assessments in the determination of suitability for parole. Board of Parole Hearings Executive Officer Jennifer Shaffer and Chief Counsel Howard Moseley discussed aspects of the process from the administrative side and took questions from the participants.
Later in the day, former lifers Heid Smith, Carletha Steward, Teresa Ethridge, and Charlotte Henderson discussed how they overcame insight challenges inuring the parole process. Experienced parole attorneys Heidi Rummel, Debbie Page, and Michael Parente, ’12, discussed client preparation and building an administrative record, followed by an open Q and A session where participants, lawyers, and former lifers discussed common pitfalls and the role of attorneys and law students in lifer parole considerations. The event’s attendees included students from UCLA, USC, and Loyola law schools; lawyers; law professors; former lifers; and family members of inmates.