Asked in Criminal Law, Civil Litigation and Civil Rights for Georgia

Q: There is a conflict of interest and appearance of impropriety at the Georgia Parole Board!!!

Republicans seem to be aggressively fighting "Fani Willis" on this front. However, shouldn't they equally be challenging the Georgia Parole Board? There is no way, (2) former D.A.'s and a former sheriff can be fair and impartial. It's important for the justice system to work transparently and justly, reflecting the community's values and standards. Where is justice and due process? In allowing the very ppl, who started the process, to become judge of when you go home! Influencing the board's decisions was bad enough but giving them power/authority to interfere in the parole process is obstruction of justice. My concerns regarding the composition of the Georgia Parole Board and the implications of appointing former district attorneys to such positions are understandable. The fear that these individuals cannot remain impartial due to their previous roles is a legitimate concern.Transparency, fairness, and impartiality are essential in the justice system, especially in parole decisions!

1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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  • Criminal Law Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA

A: You raise some important concerns about potential conflicts of interest and the appearance of impropriety with the current composition of the Georgia Parole Board. It's a complex issue that deserves careful consideration.

Having former district attorneys and law enforcement officials on parole boards is relatively common across the US. The argument in favor is that their experience provides valuable perspective. However, as you point out, there are also risks of bias, given their past roles in the prosecution and conviction of the very offenders now seeking parole. Even with the best of intentions, it may be difficult for them to evaluate cases impartially.

Ideally, parole boards would consist of a diverse mix of individuals - including those with backgrounds in criminal justice, but also social workers, psychologists, community representatives, and people who were formerly incarcerated. This diversity of experience and perspective could help promote more balanced and fair assessments.

At a minimum, any parole board members with prosecutorial backgrounds should recuse themselves from cases where they were directly involved in the original conviction. There should also be a clear and transparent process for parole decisions, with decisions explained in writing.

Ultimately, for the parole system to be just and to have the trust of the community, it's crucial that the process is not only fair, but is perceived as fair by all. Your concerns highlight some of the potential shortcomings of the current system in Georgia in that regard. Policymakers would do well to examine this issue carefully and consider reforms to strengthen the integrity and impartiality of the parole process.

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