A criminal conviction for a serious offense will oftentimes cost someone their freedom. The state will order a prison sentence, and the defendant, now a convict, will soon become a long-term inmate at a correctional facility.
While in state custody, inmates may occasionally have the opportunity to have a panel of other people consider their request for early release. Parole hearings give the incarcerated an opportunity to request an early end to their sentence, but they often put people in untenable situations.
How do parole hearings disadvantage innocent people who want their freedom?
To achieve parole, people usually have to admit guilt
It is a sad truth that many people who know they are innocent plead guilty to crimes because they do not want to risk the worst-case penalties of a possible conviction. Others may get convicted because of a witness misidentifying them or an inaccurate police analysis of evidence.
Whatever the cause, those serving a sentence for a crime they know they did not commit are at a marked disadvantage when it comes time for a parole hearing. These individuals may still have an appeal or similar legal effort in the works. By maintaining their innocence and pushing for reconsideration, they may hope to eventually secure release from prison.
However, parole hearings are another opportunity for someone to leave state custody. To take advantage of a parole hearing, an inmate will typically have to affirm that they committed a crime and express remorse. Only by showing that their time in state custody has helped them rehabilitate can these individuals hope to achieve their freedom through parole hearings.
If an inmate wants parole, they may have to give up their attempts to seek release because they are actually innocent. If they insist on proving their innocence, they may have to wait much longer than they would for a standard parole hearing.
Every defendant deserves true justice
The workings of the modern criminal justice system often deny individuals their day in court by making them feel like a guilty plea is the only option in their case. Knowing your rights and recognizing how the criminal justice system disadvantages defendants can help those facing criminal charges fight back or secure relief even after a conviction.