Parole Release Hearings: The Fallacy of Discretion

Louisiana’s parole release system is typical of those in other states. Parole release decisions in Louisiana occur entirely within the executive branch. The Parole Committee of the Louisiana Board of Pardons hears parole release cases in an “administrative, not adversarial” proceeding, meaning the committee is inquisitorial and does not rely on parties jockeying to succeed in establishing legal facts. As administrative proceedings, parole release hearings “do not automatically invoke due process.” According to the U.S. Supreme Court, “[t]here is no constitutional or inherent right of a convicted person to be conditionally released before the expiration of a valid sentence.” That is, there is no constitutional right to parole release, and states are not obligated to create a parole system. Nevertheless, nearly every state provides for parole, and the Supreme Court has said states may create a due process interest in parole release. In Bosworth v. Whitley, however, the Louisiana Supreme Court ruled that “Louisiana parole statutes do not create an expectancy of release or liberty interest in general,” which severely limits due process in Louisiana parole release hearings.