BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                     AB 920


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          Date of Hearing:  May 6, 2015


                        ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON APPROPRIATIONS


                                 Jimmy Gomez, Chair


          AB  
          920 (Gipson) - As Amended April 23, 2015


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          Urgency:  No  State Mandated Local Program:  NoReimbursable:  No


          SUMMARY:


          This bill allows a victim, next of kin, or victim's attorney to  
          obtain a copy of the packet prepared by the parole board for  
          purposes of a parole-suitability hearing.  Specifically, this  
          bill:  








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          1)Authorizes the victim, victim's next of kin, or victim's  
            attorney to request a copy of the parole board packet.

          2)Requires the Board of Parole Hearings (BPH) to provide the  
            packet, if requested, at the same time that the information is  
            given to the district attorney.  

          3)Requires the BPH to redact any confidential information in the  
            board packet before providing it to the victim, or the  
            victim's attorney.

          4)Allows the victim or next of kin to submit relevant documents  
            related to any subject about which they have a right to be  
            heard, including recommendations regarding the grant of  
            parole.

          5)States that any other information possessed by the victim or  
            next of kin which is not contained in the board packet shall  
            be submitted in writing to BPH no later than 10 days before  
            the hearing.

          FISCAL EFFECT:


          1)Ongoing costs to the BPH will be in the range of $200,000 (GF)  
            for additional staff to incorporate and consider documentation  
            submitted by victims or next of kin in approximately 1,600  
            hearings.


          2)Since the entire inmates' parole packet is confidential, this  
            bill requires BPH to make a hard copy of the 50-60 page parole  
            board packet to then cross out 99 percent of the information  
            in the packet.  This unnecessary ongoing cost to the BPH will  
            be in the $50,000 (GF) for a half-time position. 


          COMMENTS:








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          1)Purpose.  According to the author, "Our justice system is  
            based on principles of fair treatment and equal rights.  
            However, when the victim of a crime is not allowed access to  
            information relevant to the parole hearing of their assailant,  
            which is provided to the inmate's attorney seeking release,  
            there is not equality for both sides. AB 920 addresses this  
            disparate treatment by requiring that an attorney designated  
            by a crime victim or their next of kin is granted the same  
            rights to discovery as the inmate's attorney and district  
            attorney during a parole hearing."

          2)Background.  On November 4, 2008, the voters approved  
            Proposition 9, the Victims' Bill of Rights Act of 2008:   
            Marsy's Law.  This measure amended the California Constitution  
            to provide additional rights to crime victims.  In pertinent  
            part, for purposes of this bill, the initiative allows a  
            victim "[t]o be informed, upon request, of the conviction,  
            sentence, place and time of incarceration, or other  
            disposition of the defendant, the scheduled release date of  
            the defendant, and the release of or the escape by the  
            defendant from custody.  





            Marsy's Law also increased victims' rights with regards to  
            lifer parole-suitability hearings.  Specifically, it did the  
            following:

                           Expanded the definition of "victim" related to  
                    who can attend a hearing;
                           Allowed victims to attend hearings without  
                    being questioned by the prisoner or the prisoner's  
                    attorney;
                           Required the BPH to consider all of the  
                    victim's statements when determining whether to  








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                    release a prisoner on parole;
                           Required the BPH, upon request, to send notice  
                    to victims and victim's next of kin if the victim  
                    died, 90 days prior to any hearing to review or  
                    consider the parole suitability or the setting of a  
                    parole date; and to confirm the date, time and place  
                    of the hearing no later than 14 days prior to the  
                    hearing date;
                           Expanded the scope of persons allowed to act  
                    as victim representatives at parole hearings, and  
                    allows representatives to make a statement even when  
                    the victim, or victim's next of kin, also makes a  
                    statement;
                           Permitted victims to have notice and to submit  
                    written statements concerning a prisoner's request for  
                    advancement of his/her hearing date;
                           Allowed victims, victim's next of kin and  
                    their representatives to make statements which  
                    reasonably express their views concerning the  
                    prisoner, including, but not limited to the crimes  
                    committed, the effect of the crimes on the victim and  
                    the victim's family, and the prisoner's suitability  
                    for parole. 



            This bill would expand the rights of victims at parole  
            suitability hearings by allowing the victim, next of kin, or  
            victim's attorney access to the information given to the  
            inmate's attorney and the district attorney.  The bill also  
            allows the victim or next of kin to submit relevant documents  
            pertaining to any subject about which the victim has a right  
            to be heard.





          1)Argument in Support:  According to Crime Victims United of  








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            California, the sponsor of this bill, "AB 920 seeks to better  
            inform the victim, victim's next of kin or victim's attorney  
            as they prepare to speak at a parole hearing by providing them  
            with the same information provided to the inmate's attorney  
            and district attorney that will ultimate make the case for or  
            against parole of that inmate."



          2)Argument in Opposition:  The Law Offices of Rosen Bien Galvan  
            & Grunfeld writes, "We oppose Assembly Bill 920 because it  
            would cause disclosure of confidential medical and mental  
            health information protected by federal law to the victim or  
            the victim's next of kin. The board packet contains  
            significant information protected by state and federal privacy  
            statutes, including but not limited to the federal Health  
            Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA)  
            and the California Confidentiality of Medical Information Act.  
            In addition, we do not believe it would be possible for the  
            Board to accurately sort through the documents in the packet  
            and to redact confidential medical information in a manner  
            that would resolve these privacy claims. The recent amendment  
            regarding redaction of confidential information does not  
            address this problem, as it does not define confidential  
            information, leaving the Board free to apply the customary  
            standard in corrections, which limits confidential information  
            to information that would reveal the identity of a  
            confidential informant or otherwise endanger the safety of  
            persons within the institution. This standard does nothing to  
            protect confidential mental health and medical information.

          "The current life process already gives victims and victims'  
            families significant opportunities to influence the Board's  
            decision making, and the new law's provisions are not  
            necessary to permit victims and victims' next of kin to fully  
            and meaningfully participate in the process.











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          Analysis Prepared by:Pedro Reyes / APPR. / (916)  
          319-2081