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Daily Court Reporter - News Ohio Parole Board reform, new parole board members announced

 

Ohio Parole Board reform, new parole board members announced

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) Director Annette Chambers-Smith recently announced a series of reforms surrounding the operation of the Ohio Parole Board, including the appointment of three new board members.

The reforms follow a comprehensive review of the board’s operations, efficiency, transparency, and commitment to victim rights.

“It is important that we have a parole board that reflects a variety of professional backgrounds,” said Governor DeWine. “Our new board members’ diverse perspectives will enhance the board’s ability to make responsible parole decisions that take victim rights, public safety, and inmate rehabilitation into account.”

Director Chambers-Smith today appointed the following three board members to six-year terms:

Glenn Holmes of Girard (Trumbull County): Former state representative for Ohio’s 63rd district and former mayor and council president of McDonald, Ohio.

Lisa Hoying of Lewisburg (Preble County): Current assistant Clark County prosecuting attorney, with previous experience in the appellate and civil divisions. She is also a member of the Preble County Board of Developmental Disabilities.

Steven Herron of Vermilion (Erie/Lorain counties): Current assistant state public defender for the Ohio Public Defender Commission and City of Vermilion council president. He holds a bachelor's degree in clinical psychology and has practiced extensively in front of the parole board.

Director Chambers-Smith is seeking to fill a fourth Ohio Parole Board position with a candidate who has a background in mental health or addiction counseling.

Additional reforms focus around increasing transparency and efficiency surrounding the parole board process; improving victim services; and helping parolees successfully reintegrate back into society.

“The Ohio Parole Board has a significant responsibility to the people of Ohio, and I believe that these reforms will give victims a stronger voice, while also ensuring that inmates who truly deserve a second chance will have that opportunity,” said Governor DeWine. “These improvements are just the first steps in a broad effort to reform parole board operations and rebuild trust surrounding the process.”

Increased Transparency: Currently, offenders eligible for parole are not permitted to participate in, or even witness, their full-board parole hearings. Offenders will now have the opportunity to take part in their hearings via video conferencing. ODRC is also developing a plan to live stream all full-board hearings for the public. Victims and their families, however, can opt to stop the video conference and live stream during their victim impact statements.

Proposed Victim Rights Legislation: Legislation will be recommended to enhance victim rights by giving victims access to the inmate’s Institutional Summary Report. Legislation will also be recommended to give prosecutors the ability to object to an institutional release recommendation if the victim is deceased, unable to be located, or uncomfortable with opposing the offender’s release.

Efforts to Enhance Informed Decisions and Efficiency: The Ohio Parole Board will implement several new efforts to ensure a more efficient parole process.

To assist board members in making informed decisions, the Ohio Parole Board will meet with ODRC staff for first-hand feedback on the conduct and rehabilitation of inmates who are eligible for parole.

ODRC will develop new infraction guidelines that more accurately reflect the gravity of the institutional infractions. When considering parole, the Ohio Parole Board currently gives all inmate infractions the same weight, whether the violations are serious or minor.

Inmates recommended for parole by the board after an institutional hearing will no longer be automatically referred for a full-board hearing. A full board hearing will only be conducted when requested by the victim, the victim’s family, representatives from victim services, the prosecuting attorney (following legislative action stated above), or the parole board chair. This change will streamline the parole process in cases where there are no objections to an inmate’s release and reduce a current backlog of full-board hearings.

Initiatives for Reentry: The ODRC Office of Reentry Services will create a new reentry program focusing on life skills that are appropriate given the age of the parolee. A volunteer-based navigator program will also be developed to help guide inmates through the parole hearing process.

Increased Training: All members of the Ohio Parole Board will be required to undergo training on legal updates, interviewing skills, and effective communication. ODRC staff will also receive training to improve their understanding of the parole hearing process.

“As Director, I have personally met with the different parties involved or affected by the operation of the Ohio Parole Board," said Director Chambers-Smith. "I am confident that our agency has crafted an all-inclusive reform effort that will keep the communities safe and create fairness for those in our institutions, while still ensuring that the voices of victims are given meaningful consideration in the process. These changes are only the beginning. We will continue to move forward with additional improvements to our Parole Board and their procedures.”

The above policy reforms are expected to be implemented within the coming months.

The parole board chairperson will also seek input on additional reforms through separate focus groups with victims and parole-eligible inmates. The Ohio Parole Board will also continue to ensure compliance with current victims’ rights statutes and policies, as well as Marsy’s Law.

Date Published: May 28, 2019

 

Ohio Governor's Office

 

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