On April 9 USC Gould School of Law student Simone Rudolf-Dib won a parole grant for her client at his initial youth offender hearing in PCJP’s first-ever virtual parole hearing. Her client was formerly sentenced to life without possibility of parole and commuted by Governor Jerry Brown in 2018.

Like so many other things, working with incarcerated clients has become extraordinarily challenging in the last month. In-person legal visits are no longer safe; prisons are short-staffed and dealing with dangerous overcrowding and health conditions; client communication is extremely limited and difficult; and the Board of Parole Hearings has been conducting virtual hearings for less than a week.

Simone – and the other PCJP students – have risen to meet these challenges in the most professional manner and have worked tirelessly to find ways to prepare their clients for parole hearings and meet court deadlines. And they are doing this while navigating all the other personal and professional challenges of our new virtual world. Our students are learning how to be their best professional selves despite adversity, and this grant of parole will resonate throughout Lancaster prison where there are numerous confirmed COVID-19 cases, sending a message of hope to the men inside.

Special thanks to our law school community for continuing to support PCJP and its students and advocacy work and to the amazing Eunice Bautista who continues to give 110% to support our students and our clients.

Be well and stay safe,

Heidi and Mike

Even though we had been working with my client since January to prepare him for his hearing, the last few weeks saw a lot of uncertainty about whether the hearing even would go forward, as the California Board of Parole Hearings adjusted its policies and procedures to allow for virtual hearings in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. To continue to work one-on-one with my client before the hearing, I converted all my in-person legal visits to legal calls. With the help of PCJP’s Heidi Rummel, Michael Brennan, and Eunice Bautista, I finished my pre-hearing submission and paperwork remotely. Thankfully, the prison set up its Skype function quickly, so the hearing went ahead as scheduled — a postponement could have meant another six months of waiting before he could go before the Board. Conducting the hearing via Skype definitely changed the dynamic and it felt odd to not be in the same room with everyone, but it went off without a hitch. Working with a client to prepare them for a parole hearing is always a great educational experience, but this hearing stands out because of the way it taught me to adjust to new circumstances and work under unexpected conditions. The most important part was that my client got to tell his story for the Board, and he was found suitable for parole!

Simone Rudolf-Dib
J.D. Candidate, Class of 2021
USC Gould School of Law