Terminal Island Prisoners Win Right to In-Person Parole Hearings
A lawsuit brought on behalf of prisoners at Terminal Island, a storied federal corrections facility between Los Angeles Harbor and Long Beach Harbor, has been settled in favor of the inmates. The agreement reached last week was preceded by a federal judge's injunction last March protecting the rights of two inmates forced to appear at hearings via video rather than in person, according to the ACLU of Southern California.
"We're pleased the Parole Commission appears to see eye-to-eye with us on such an important issue," says Jessica Price, an ACLU attorney, in a statement from the Southern California office. "Justice doesn't occur via remote control--it requires face-to-face contact.
"Without it, it's difficult for a judge to truly understand an inmate's situation. We hope that this leads to permanent change, both in California and nationwide."
John Paul Morrow, et al v. United States Parole Commission, et al was filed by the ACLU earlier this year on behalf of the San Pedro area facility's inmates Christian Davis and John Paul Morrow. U.S. District Judge Dale S. Fischer agreed that federal parole officials violated the 1976 Parole Act by forcing the pair to participate in parole hearings via video conference, which the jurist said could lead to detached encounters irreparably harming the inmates.
The settlement applies to all U.S. District courts in the Ninth Circuit. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is operating under the agreement through Aug. 31 while costs are assessed to determine whether to permanently allow in-person hearings, according to the ACLU.
The Federal Correctional Institution sits on a mudflat that was known to the Spanish as Isla Raza de Buena Gente before later being called Rattlesnake Island. It has officially been Terminal Island since 1918, and the prison's inhabitants have included Al Capone, Timothy Leary and Japanese people interned during World War II.
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