In the words of Rashida Edmondson, Chief of the PDS Parole Division:
PDS still strongly believes that transferring all the current functions of the United States Parole Commission to the DC Superior Court would provide the most transparency, due process, and fairness, for District residents while giving DC an opportunity to shrink the criminal legal system rather than expand it. Parole boards have repeatedly proved to be failed institutions and major drivers of mass incarceration. They make even less sense for DC, where parole cases are dwindling and will soon disappear. The new agency’s work will be almost exclusively the revocation of supervised release and also the early termination of supervision. A parole board with these responsibilities will be incentivized to continue people on supervision and needlessly revoke people to incarceration in order to justify its existence. Parole boards are susceptible to political pressure and too easily perpetuate the racist impact of the criminal legal system.
Attempting to remake a parole board that will shrink rather than expand the criminal legal system, will protect liberty and due process, and will advance principals of transformative justice has never been done and would be extremely difficult to do in a year. The District must prioritize shrinking the criminal legal system and protecting liberty and due process interests by listening to local experts who have deep knowledge from representing clients in the parole context. With the will and the right focus, it is definitely possible for the District to do the hard work of designing a new parole system within one year. Again, transferring this process to the court increases fairness, due process, and transparency, and is also logistically simpler, since the District would only have to pass laws and promulgate guidelines instead of creating a new agency. The District must not lose sight of the fact that delays in this process lead to concrete harms to incarcerated District residents, their families, and our communities.