Nominee Ina Howard-Hogan
The council met with Attorney Ina Howard-Hogan on March 28. Howard-Hogan is seeking reappointment to the Massachusetts Parole Board.
Lee Gartenberg, director of inmate services for the Middlesex County Sheriff’s Office
Jean Trounstine Professor of Humanities Middlesex Community College
Reverend Jason Lydon of the Community Church of Boston.
Present for some or all of the hearing were the following counsilors:
Charles Oliver Cipollini
Marilyn M. Petitto Devaney
Attorney Christopher A. Iannella, Jr.
Attorney Mary-Ellen Manning
Attorney Terrence Kennedy
Attorney Jennie Caissie
Attorney Ina Howard-Hogan was first appointed to the parole board in 2011, to fill the vacancies left by the resignation of board members in the wake of the 2008 decision to parole Dominic Cinelli, a repeat violent offender who police say shot and killed a Woburn officer in December 2010.
This appointment is for her own term.
Attorney Ina Howard-Hogan had been council to the parole board, before her initial appointment.
The Parole Board is responsible for the reintroduction into the community of inmates, often ahead of their complete sentence.
They are also responsible for the release of individuals who have life sentences.
Recent appointments to the board have been weighted in the direction of former prosecutors.
Attorney Ina Howard-Hogan had been a prosecutor in the past.
There was discussion regarding programs for inmates required prior to their parole release.
Concern was raised that some requirements were not available through the programs offered at some state institutes. Attorney Howard-Hogan acknowledged this issue and said these problems were addressed as they were made known to the board.
Concern was raised about the current parole rate. It was acknowledged that following the death of the Woburn police officer paroles stopped while the parole system was reassessed.
Attorney Howard-Hogan stated that paroles are currently based on a fact driven process, not on target percentage.
It was acknowledged that the current parole rates may be lower than other states, but that part of the difference could be attributed to the two month period when no paroles occurred.
Questions were raised about the assessment tools used to determine if an inmate should be paroled.
Attorney Howard-Hogan stated that Compas from Northpointe was an assessment tool that is used for all parolees in the state system. She stated that the systems used for the counties varied.
Conduct of Parole Board members were raised. Although none of the criticism appeared to be directed toward Attorney Howard-Hogan, concern was expressed regarding the promptness of rulings by the board, and of the general demeanor of board members. It was related that a least one board member was known to make unnecessary disparaging comments to inmates, and that another member was alleged to have fallen asleep during a hearing.
Another issue touched on terminally ill patients.
It was alleged that even when inmates were incapable of being a physical threat to anyone because of a terminal illness, they would not be released to die in a hospice.
No one with a life sentence has been paroled since the 2010 incident.
The question was raised as to whether any ex-prosecutor should be on the parole board, Attorney Howard-Hogan answered that she did not agree with that assessment.
The issue was raised regarding a meeting that had been set between the nominee and one of the councilors at her earlier hearing. Attorney Howard-Hogan had cancelled the meeting for personal reasons. It was alleged that the current Commissioner Josh Wall had held a meeting at the same time for all new nominees for the parole board. The nominee was chided for giving a false excuse for cancelling the meeting with the councilor and was asked to come clean regarding the incident. Attorney Howard-Hogan claimed she her recollection of the incident was different, and would not apologize. The incident has been raised before, and Attorney Howard-Hogan could have checked her records to either confirm or deny the allegations.
Comments on Parole Board Nominee:
The following information was provided to me:
NOTICE TO THE GOVERNOR’S COUNCIL
REGARDING CONCERNS ABOUT THE
MASSACHUSETTS PAROLE BOARD
March 28, 2012
We are sending this memorandum to the Governor’s Council to notify you of some of our concerns about the present state of parole in Massachusetts. We are not writing to take a position on the re-nomination of Ina Howard-Hogan, but rather to inform you of some of the problems with current Parole Board practices in Massachusetts that need to be addressed.
I. PAROLE RELEASE RATES HAVE DROPPED SIGNIFICANTLY SINCE THE NEW BOARD BEGAN CONDUCTING HEARINGS IN APRIL OF 2011.
The Department of Correction (DOC) data is clear:
"Criminally sentenced releases to the street are either paroled to the street or released to an expiration of sentence; total releases to the street decreased by 17% between 2010 and 2011. At the same time, releases to an expiration of sentence increased by 8% from 1,710 in 2010 to 1,842 in 2011; releases paroled to the street decreased by 58% from 1,028 in 2010 to 435 in 2011. Additionally, inmates paroled to the street accounted for 19% of total releases to the street compared to 38% in 2010 and 39% in 2009." See http://www.mass.gov/eopss/docs/doc/research-reports/misc-reports/fourthqtr2011report.pdf.
This means the DOC had 593 more prisoners in 2011 than it did in 2010 based solely on the 58% decline in parole releases. As important, twice as many prisoners were released without supervision in 2011 compared to 2010.
The current Board conducted 139 lifer hearings between April 1, 2011 and March of 2012. To date, only thirteen of those decisions have been released. All thirteen have been unanimous denials (Eleven five year setbacks and two four year setbacks).
The Parole Board reports that the parole rates have not changed dramatically, but that is incorrect. The Parole Board only reports data on its rate of “positive votes” but not the actual release rate which is monitored by the DOC. Persons receiving “positive votes” do not leave prison after a positive vote. Rather, they remain in prison to complete conditions set by the Board which may be impossible or take years to accomplish or they may “wrap up” or complete their sentences in prison before they ever comply with the Board’s conditions. For example, a prisoner may receive a positive parole vote with a condition that he completes a drug treatment program. While this may be a reasonable condition, the DOC has 11,800 prisoners and less than 500 drug treatment beds with long waiting lists. Although this prisoner has a “positive parole vote,” he may never be paroled. The true measure of who is leaving prison on parole is set out in the DOC statistics above. A 58% drop in parole releases from DOC facilities is a significant decline in parole releases and cannot be ignored.
II. THE PAROLE BOARD DOES NOT RELY UPON A RISK ASSESSMENT TOOL.
The prior Parole Board’s failure to use a risk assessment tool was a major concern when Dominic Cinelli was released on parole. The current Parole Board, however, still does not utilize a risk assessment tool in making parole decisions. True, both DOC and Parole now perform COMPAS risk assessments (Correctional Offender Management and Profiling Alternative Sanctions by Northpointe Inc.) on persons seeking parole, but the Board appears to completely ignore the COMPAS numbers in making its decisions. Many prisoners score low enough to be considered for release on the risk/violence assessment, but the Board completely ignores the COMPAS score at Parole Board hearings. As a result, the Board’s decisions are totally subjective. This is contrary to every evidence-based study ever done on Parole Boards and to national best practices.
III. BOARD MEMBERS ARE DISRESPECTFUL AND RUDE TO PRISONERS SEEKING PAROLE.
Certain Parole Board members speak to prisoners and their families with a complete lack of respect. They frequently interrupt prisoners, talk and laugh with other Board members while prisoners are speaking, fall sleep during the hearings, and in general speak in a tone of voice that sends a very clear message: “I don’t believe you; I don’t respect you; and I don’t like you.” Prisoners are depressed, desolate and demoralized when they leave a parole hearing.
Often, the hearings focus on whether the prisoners have been sufficiently punished for what they were convicted of and the hearings resemble a retrial of the original case. State statute, however, lists multiple factors that must be considered by the Parole Board when assessing risk and determining a prisoner’s suitability for parole. These factors include disciplinary history, improvements in mental and moral condition, attitude towards society and criminal justice officials, industrial record in prison, occupational possibilities, and physical and mental examinations.
We are attaching a statement from a lifer written after his hearing. His descriptions of how certain Parole Board members interacted with him are contrary to every evidence-based study ever done on parole board best practices.
IV. THE DELAY IN GETTING DECISIONS TO PRISONERS CAUSES GREAT DISTRUST OF THE PAROLE BOARD AND EXTRAORDINARY FRUSTRATION FOR PRISONERS AND THEIR FAMILIES. IN SOME CASES THE DELAY VIOLATES THE LAW.
This Board is extremely slow in issuing decisions of all kinds. The excessive delays contribute to the overall sense of hopelessness and despair that currently permeates the prison system. The overwhelming perception is that the Board does not respect prisoners and that the rules governing parole are a farce.
A. Parole release decisions for lifer hearings in 2011 by the current Board - By regulation, all parole release decisions for non-lifers are made immediately, at the conclusion of the hearing. (The prisoner leaves the room for a few minutes and the parole panel - one, two, or three members of the Board - depending on the kind of hearing, decides the case.) For lifer hearings, however, the Board must produce a written decision. There were 104 lifer hearings in 2011. So far, only 13 decisions have been issued. The current Board started hearing lifer cases in April of 2011. Very soon, some of those men and women and their families will have been waiting one year for their parole decisions. Their parole eligibility dates have come and gone.
B. Parole revocation decisions by the current Board – When a parole officer believes that a client has violated conditions of parole, a preliminary revocation hearing is conducted within three days of the client being returned to custody (and that decision is rendered immediately by a hearing examiner). A “final revocation hearing” is held within 60 days by a panel of the Board. Currently, we are aware of five lifers who have been waiting between four and six months to find out if the Board believes they violated parole. We believe there are many people in custody waiting lengthy periods of time for final revocation decisions. Certainly, the United States Supreme Court’s holding in Morrissey v. Brewer that the final revocation hearing must be held within a “reasonable time” after a parolee is returned to custody (Morrissey holds that two months is reasonable) did not anticipate parolees waiting four to six months for a decision on whether they violated the conditions of parole. Surely, the two month time limit means getting both a hearing and a decision within two months.
C. The Current Board’s Failure to Resolve the Outstanding Cases from Hearings before the “Old Board” - Three of the persons who had hearings before the old Board are still waiting for decisions. They had their hearings on 12/14/10 and 1/11/11. Some prisoners who received decisions from the old Board granting them parole still have not been released.
D. Pending Appeals – The Parole Board is one of the only administrative agencies that does not have an appellate authority. The Board oversees its own appeals. An appeal goes right back to the same people who decided the case, thirty days earlier. The problem with this is twofold. First, because the Board is so far behind in issuing all decisions, a parolee waits many months for a ruling on his/her appeal. Appeals of lifer cases filed last summer are still pending. Second, there appears to be no real consideration of the merits of the appeals. The decisions are usually rubber stamped “appeal denied” or similar phrasing.
E. Commutation Petitions – Prisoners wait an extremely long time to hear how the Parole Board (sitting as the Advisory Board of Pardons) has ruled on their commutation petitions. We are aware of a prisoner who is suffering from a fatal illness who filed a commutation petition in June of 2011 and is still awaiting a decision.
V. PEOPLE ARE DYING IN PRISON WHEN THEY SHOULD BE PAROLED TO HOSPICE PROGRAMS OR HOME
Prisoners who are very sick could be paroled to hospice centers or to their families’ care. They meet the criteria for parole because there is no likelihood that they will commit another crime and because treating dying people with respect and dignity is consistent with the welfare of society. These people are too sick to get out of bed because of diseases such as end-stage cancer or liver failure, yet they are being denied parole. (The Parole Board is statutorily directed to grant a parole permit if it is “of the opinion that there is a reasonable probability that, if such prisoner is released, he will live and remain at liberty without violating the law, and that his release is not incompatible with the welfare of society.” Parole is not to be granted “merely as a reward for good conduct” M.G.L. 127, §130.)
The current parole system is broken and not serving its intended purpose. The concerns raised above are just a summary of the problems negatively impacting the community and do nothing to improve public safety in the Commonwealth. We urge the Council to address these matters and safeguard parole in Massachusetts.
Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
Max Stern, President
Criminal Justice Policy Coalition
Ben Thompson, Executive Director
Center for Church and Prison
George Walters-Sleyon, Executive Director
Prisoners’ Legal Services
Leslie Walker, Executive Director
Lyn Levy, Executive Director
Coalition for Effective Public Safety
Jean Trounstine, Professor of Humanities, Middlesex Community College
Real Cost of Prisons Project
Lois Ahrens, Founder and Director
More comments on Attorney Ina Howard-Kate Hogan
STATEMENT OF COUNCILLOR MARILYN M. PETITTO DEVANEYGOVERNOR’S COUNCIL MEETING – APRIL 4, 2012 RE: REAPPOINTMENT OF ATTORNEY INA HOWARD-HOGAN – PAROLE BOARD MEMBER
I believe -Honesty is the most important attribute of a person. Regarding a nominee- for me -Honesty comes before all qualifications. I will be voting “no” on the reappointment of Ina Howard-Hogan.
March 11, 2011, Ina Howard-Hogan was one of the nominees appointed to the Parole Board after presiding Parole Board members were removed.
I had scheduled a meeting with each of the nominees. After failing to get a date which Attorney Hogan could meet- I finally offered another day and time. Ina Howard Hogan advised me she could not make that particular time and day – because she was going to her little boys’ soccer game.
When I met with each of the other Parole Board nominees, they told me about a meeting they attended held by Chairman Wall. It was the same day I offered to meet with Attorney Hogan when she replied that she couldn’t make it because she had her son’s soccer game.
Chairman Wall had invited all the newly -nominated Parole Board members to the meeting- to advise them regarding the Parole Board in preparation for their Governor’s Council hearings. Attorney Ina Howard-Hogan attended this meeting – not a soccer game! What a silly, senseless lie! Evidently, Attorney Hogan believed she should not reveal to me that she was going to attend a meeting held by Chairman Wall.
I believe it is also important to report -During the hearing I asked Attorney Hogan, as she was the legal counsel for the previous Parole Board when they voted unanimously to release Cinelli, I asked :“What was your personal opinion on releasing Cinelli at that time? She responded:” I had no opinion” I then asked her now after a year with all the information available – “What is your personal opinion now? – Should Cinelli have been released? She stated: “I have no opinion.” I replied that I have a personal opinion- everyone you know has an opinion- I found her response was not credible.
A year has passed since Ina Howard- Hogan was first approved. In these past months, Ina Howard Hogan never called me to apologize for a lie that made no sense.
In all good conscience, I cannot vote my approval for the reappointment of Ina Howard-Hogan, who as a Parole Board member is charged to judge the veracity of those appearing before her-when her own veracity is in question.
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