why parole is appropiate and why it was recommended

california board of parole facts

Why parole is appropriate and Why it was recommended

On August 27, 2021, a Panel of the California Parole Board1  correctly recommended release of Mr. Sirhan after his service of 53 years in custody.  Why? Because prisoners serving life sentences (except for those serving sentences of life without the possibility of parole (LWOP)) are entitled to release.  The California Supreme Court has stated: “[P]arole is the rule, rather than the exception.”

Because prisoners serving life sentences (except for those serving sentences of life without the possibility of parole (LWOP)) are entitled to release.  The California Supreme Court has stated: “[P]arole is the rule, rather than the exception.”2

Who are the members of the California Parole Board?

The Board of Parole Hearings is composed of 21 full-time commissioners who are appointed by the Governor and subject to confirmation by the California Senate. They are career law enforcement officers, e.g. former prison wardens, probation officers, district attorneys, who act as the final bastion for public safety by making the weighty decision as to whether any particular life prisoner can be released into the public

How many times was Sirhan Sirhan denied parole in the past?

Mr. Sirhan has had 16 parole hearings. He was once before recommended for parole, but it was ultimately denied.

What happened at this parole Hearing?

On August 27, 2021 the Board Commissioner correctly stated: “[The decision] has to be based on evidence in the record of his current dangerousness.” 3 4 Current dangerousness was legally the sole issue for the Board, and it did not find evidence that Sirhan Sirhan is a current danger.

The underlying facts possess little significance with the passage of over ½ a century

The law is clear that the underlying facts of the crime have little relevance with the passage of so much time.5 Therefore, any argument that Mr. Sirhan should be denied

An admission of Guilt is Strictly Prohibited Under California Law

It is oft repeated by those opposing release that Mr. Sirhan should not be released unless he is willing to admit culpability with respect to every detail of the fateful evening’s events.  However, this argument is in direct contravention to the law.  The law states:
“The Board of Prison Terms shall not require, when setting parole dates, an admission of guilt to any crime for which an inmate was committed.”6

Considering the relevant information, the Board had no Choice But to Grant Parole

When considering the relevant information, and rightfully leaving emotion out of the analysis, the Panel was compelled to recommend release.  Mr. Sirhan’s good behavior, his positive programming, and his consistent positive psychological testing dictated it.

Consistent psychological test findings over many years drove the Panel to its decision that Mr. Sirhan does not pose an unreasonable risk of danger to society.  These expert  conclusions were based on evaluations performed by trained psychologists employed by the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to assess current dangerousness in preparation for each parole hearing.  As early as 1985, CDCR psychologists have concluded that Mr. Sirhan would not pose an unreasonable risk to the public should he be released.  Each evaluation since then has consistently reached the same conclusion.78 These same doctors also found that Mr. Sirhan has adequately expressed insight and remorse.

they continue to be predictive of current dangerousness many years after commission of the offense. This inquiry is, by necessity and by statutory mandate, an individualized one, and cannot be undertaken simply by examining the circumstances of the crime in isolation, without consideration of the passage of time or the attendant changes in the inmate's psychological or mental attitude.

9TheBoard had to give “special consideration to whether age, time served, and diminished physical condition, …have reduced the elderly inmate’s risk for future violence.”

10Moreover, the Panel’s decision was driven in part by the Youthful Offender Law, which applies to all offenders who commit their crimes when they are under 26 years old.  For qualifying offenders, the Board is obligated to “take into consideration the diminished culpability of youth as compared to that of [older counterparts], the hallmark features of youth, and any subsequent growth and increased maturity ofthe individual.”

11The premise behind this law is that since neuro-science conclusively has proven that the pre-frontal lobe of the human brain is still developing well into the subject’s mid-twenties, and that portion of the brain is responsible for impulse control and deliberative thought, younger offenders are less culpable and have adistinctive capacity for rehabilitation.

Indeed, Mr. Sirhan demonstrated a panoply of proof that he is rehabilitated: he obtained his AA degree with a 4.0 GPA, earning him the esteemed position on the honor roll; he has held stable jobs and received commendations from his supervisors; he has completed intense in-patient psychological treatment and participated in a plethora of self-help courses over the numerous years of his incarceration.  Moreover, letters submitted by

it is reasonable to infer that the inmate's lack of insight reveals a danger undetected or underestimated in the psychological reports.”8

9 Among other things, Mr. Sirhan suffers from atrial fibrillation. Additionally, he had contracted Valley Fever while incarcerated and has lasting immune-deficiencies as a result. He has survived prostate cancer and is again being watched for the cancer’s reemergence.  In 2019, he was assaulted by another inmate.  His throat was slashed; he lost a considerable amount of blood requiring a transfusion; and a connective ligament was severed, resulting in constant pain.

Current correctional officers who work with Mr. Sirhan on a daily basis weighted heavily in favor of his release on parole.  The Board of Prisons Board Panel made the right decision in recommending Mr. Sirhan’s release.

[1] The Board of Parole Hearings is composed of 21 full-time commissioners who are appointed by the Governor and subject to confirmation by the California Senate. They are career law enforcement officers, e.g. former prison wardens, probation officers, district attorneys, who act as the final bastion for public safety by making the weighty decision as to whether any particular life prisoner can be released into the public.

[2] In re Lawrence (2008) 44 Cal.4th1181, 1204 (Lawrence), quoting In re Smith (2003) 114 Cal. App.343, 366.

[3] (Parole Board Decision, Aug. 27, 2021, p. 157, lines 12-14.)

[4] 15 Calif. Code of Regs., Sec 2402(a); In re Ross (2009) 170 Cal. App. 4th 1490,1502.

[5] In In re Rosenkrantz (2002) 29 Cal. 4th 616,682, the California Supreme Court stated:

The relevant inquiry is whether the circumstances of the commitment offense, when considered in light of other facts in the record, are such that parole and die in prison because of the heinous nature of the crime, or because his actions “changed the course of history” or “disenfranchised millions of Americans” is displaced.  A denial of parole on such a basis would violate due process.

[6] Penal Code section 5011(b).

[7} Dr. Thompson and Dr.Pollock separately concluded Mr. Sirhan’s low risk for violence in 1985.  The same opinions were reached in 1986 (Dr. Hicks);1987 (Dr. Drye); 1990 (Dr. Farr); 1994 (Dr. Martin and separately Dr. Hix); 2010 (Dr. Carrera); 2016 (Dr.Sahni); and most recently 2021 (Dr. Crimele).

[8] Our State Supreme Court reminds us: “In cases where psychological evaluations consistently indicate that an inmate poses a low risk of danger to society, a contrary conclusion must be based on more than a hunch or mere belief that he should gain more insight into his past behavior. The Board must point to evidence from which The parole board panel’s decision for release was also guided by legislation that reflects conclusive neuro-science findings and correlations that predict an inmate’s current dangerousness. For instance, Mr. Sirhan qualifies for Elderly Inmate Parole Consideration. Mr. Sirhan is 77 years old and he suffers from a number of age-related diseases that drastically decrease his risk of violence".

The parole board panel’s decision for release was also guided by legislation that reflects conclusive neuro-science findings and correlations that predict an inmate’s current dangerousness.  For instance, Mr. Sirhan qualifies for Elderly Inmate Parole Consideration. Mr. Sirhan is 77 years old and he suffers from a number of age-related diseases that drastically decrease his risk of violence.

[9] Among other things, Mr. Sirhan suffers from atrial fibrillation.  Additionally, he had contracted Valley Fever while incarcerated and has lasting immune-deficiencies as a result.  He has survived prostate cancer and is again being watched for the cancer’s reemergence.  In 2019, he was assaulted by another inmate.  His throat was slashed; he lost a considerable amount of blood requiring a transfusion; and a connective ligament was severed, resulting in constant pain.
‍ Pen. Code § 3055
‍Pen. Code § 3051(f).   

[9] The Board had to give “special consideration to whether age, time served, and diminished physical condition, …have reduced the elderly inmate’s risk for future violence.”

[10] Moreover, the Panel’s decision was driven in part by the Youthful Offender Law, which applies to all offenders who commit their crimes when they are under 26 years old.  For qualifying offenders, the Board is obligated to “take into consideration the diminished culpability of youth as compared to that of [older counterparts], the hallmark features of youth, and any subsequent growth and increased maturity of the individual.”

[11] The premise behind this law is that since neuro-science conclusively has proven that the pre-frontal lobe of the human brain is still developing well into the subject’s mid-twenties, and that portion of the brain is responsible for impulse control and deliberative thought, younger offenders are less culpable and have a distinctive capacity for rehabilitation.