Saturday, June 19, 2021

INFORMAL Parole Suitability Hearing Practical Tips (aka “TIPS”) and TIPS2 (for Covid19 correspondence course assistance)

Since our Law Office receives so many phone calls from inmates and Family members that want assistance (but may not be able to afford a private attorney)  in Preparing for the Initial and Subsequent Parole Hearings, we dedicated this June BLOG to describing Resources that our law office has compiled over many years, that may be useful to  inmates and/or the Family and Friends of the inmates.

Over our 20+ years of Law practice in the area of Post-Conviction (i.e. Parole Suitability Hearings) we accumulated different resources from many sources: including our clients, transitional homes, other Lifer advocates, etc..  We combined the materials in an informal PDF document that we named TIPS. TIPS was first released in 2012 (20 pages or so) or so; some older version are still floating around in the different prisons. 

The (619-233-3688) Law office of Diane T. Letarte has recently Revised the Original “TIPS” pamphlet entitled: “Parole Suitability Hearing Practical Tips”. The last Revision was created December 2020. It has grown to 50 pages or so, see Description below.  NOTE: Different then the TIPS2 packet described further below. After reading the TIPS / TIPS2 descriptions below, if you believe it may be helpful to an inmate (or a Family/Friend) - feel free to download it, print it, and US mail it to an inmate (or LO) for assistance in his/her Parole Hearing Preparation. 

The PDF files are Free but there is a DOWNLOADABLE small fee (~$6 - $9), which contributes to the website hosting of the two (2) .PDF documents entitled TIPS and TIPS2.

Below are the Descriptions of TIPS and TIPS2: 

TIPS:  informal INMATE resource: 

The TIPS document allow the inmates to better understand what they need to prepare for the Parole Hearing and what to expect from the Commissioners. The TIPS (2020 Edition, 49 pages).

TIPS is an easy to read document with a non-legalese approach to prepare the inmate on WHAT to expect  during the Parole Suitability Hearing (BPH). TIPS also contains SAMPLE Questions from both the Commissioners (BOARD) and the Prison Psychologist. The NEW 2020 Edition contains more information on COVID19 Video Hearings as well as Youth and Elderly Parole hearings as well as existing new 2020 law: (i.e SB1437 Felony Murder and AB3234, new elderly law). There are now 17 (as of 2021)  Commissioners appointed by the Governor who hear these Parole Hearings across all 35+ Prisons, where it is normally conducted. Soon to be increased in 2021-2022 by a two (2) more Commissioners to accommodate all the new Elderly Parole Hearings and Non-Violent 3rd strikers, among others.

We are including the Table of Contents below for your review.

Table of Contents  (for TIPS)

   What about COVID19 and BPH Video hearings?    6
   PRACTICAL TIPS:  Do I speak about “the crime”?    7
   What about INSIGHT?    9
   Board of Parole Hearings Sample Questions    12
   Relapse Prevention Plan (RPP)    17
   The 10 Most Common Relapse Triggers    18
VI. PSYCHOLOGICAL Evaluation (CRA)    19
   Psychologist: Sample  Questions    21
   A. In re Lawrence : 44 Cal. 4th 1181 (2008)    25
   B. In re Shaputis:  44 Cal. 4th 1241 (2008)    26
   C. In re Shaputis II  53 Cal.4th 192 (2011)    27
IX. LIFER LAWs (and other Laws)    28
   A. Marsy’s Law (A.K.A. Prop 9)    28
   B. Youth Offender Parole Hearings (SB260/261, AB1308, SB394)    29
   C.  Elderly Parole Hearing (60/25 And 50/20)    31
   D. SB1437 (Felony Murder) & Prop 47  &  Prop 57    33
     …. Filing the Felony-Murder Petition    34
    E. Administrative Review (AR) Of Hearings    36
     Is It Time To Appeal To The Court?    38
   A1. Why/How To Write  Support Letters?    39
   A2. Parole Plan & Transitional Homes    40
   A3. Where Do I Send The Support Letters?    41
   A4. To Whom Do I Address The Support Letter?    41
   A5. How To Write A Job Offer Letter?    42
   A6. How Do I Get The Prison’s Address?    42
XIII. BLACK LIVES  MATTER - LA DA ends Opposition to Parole Grants    45
   A1.  LA's New DA George Gasc√≥n Ushers In Sweeping Changes, Less Punitive    Approach to Crime.    45
   A2.  Ending Use Of The 'Racist' Death Penalty    46
   A3. Lifer Parole Hearing Impact: LA DA To Support A Grant    47


TIPS2:  informal FAMILY resource (to help loved ones):

The TIPS2 document allow the Family/Friends to send resources (e.g. correspondence classes addresses, etc.)  to their LOs so they can better prepare for their Parole Hearing and what to expect from the Commissioners. The TIPS2 (2020 Edition, 59 pages).

From different engagements that we were invited to speak at -->  one time or another, such as Families of the Incarcerated, among other venues, we received many questions from family members and friends. The recurring theme is always asking: “ What can we do help our Loved Ones “LO”?”.   We subsequently created a separate and informal document that we named TIPS2.

Subsequently with COVID19 and the Prison movement restrictions, inmates had little (or no) Group or individual self help classes available to increase their Rehabilitation. We enhanced TIPS2 so that  Friends/Family (on the outside) can assist their LO, by providing them with the name of correspondence classes, Books to read for Book Reports, writing appropriate support letters, etc..

The Resource pages included in this Practical informal TIPS2 packet are from all different sources that our office as acquired over several years, to assist our Long Term Offender (and Lifers) clients.   This packet contains several different topics; Book List, Book Report Sample, Correspondence classes address, Transitional Housing resources, CDCR Mental health system assistance for in-cell classes. It also contains courtesy Sample excerpts of  the ECC, LSA, and POSSE newsletters; if you chose to subscribe to them for your Loved One, please contact the Newsletter staff directly. There is a separate CLN (older California Lifer Newsletter sample) that is now published by LSA; you can also request a Subscription for CLN.  These Newsletters are published and mailed to the prisons; your LOs maybe familiar with them. We are including the Table of Contents below for your review.

  Table of Contents  (for TIPS2)

II. Parole Hearing Guidelines    5
    Apology Letter(s)    5
    Relapse Prevention Plan (RPP)    6
    The 10 Most Common Relapse Triggers    7
    Board Of Parole Hearings - QUESTIONS    8
   A4. CLN CA LIFER NEWSLETTER [2017 Excerpts]    25
IV. Correspondence Self-Help classes    33
   A1. PREP correspondence courses    33
   A2. LSA correspondence courses    33
   A3. MAX PLU - POSSE  correspondence courses    35
   A4. CDCR - Mental Health Delivery System (MHDS)    38
   A5. CRIMINON  correspondence courses    40
   A6. FREE  correspondence courses    43
    Book List    45
    Book Report - Sample    48
VI. Is It Time To Appeal To Court?    49
   A1. Why/How To Write  Support Letters?    50
   A2. Parole Plan & Transitional Homes    51
   A3. Where Do I Send The Support Letters?    52
   A4. To Whom Do I Address The Support Letter?    53
   A5. How To Write A Job Offer Letter?    53
   A6. How Do I Get The Prison’s Address?    54


The Law Office of Diane Letarte has no affiliations with any of the Newsletters. We do not promote (or endorse) any one resource over another. Some have correspondence classes are Free and others have a small fee for their services. Some Newsletters may be available or not. It is up to the reader to to the foot work and contact the individual entities for the latest information.



Please pardon any inconsistent formats in our TIPS and TIPS2. TIPS2 was created (during COVID19 pandemic) to get information out to the inmates’ Families so they can assist their Loved Ones for their Parole Hearing;  parts/sections were from different sources and formats.  Keep in mind, this is intended to be an “informal practical TIPs” document. We have no Editor or Publisher. The Attorney and staff are working “on their own free time” to try to gather the information for the inmates and/or Families of the incarcerated.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Effective May 1, 2021, CDCR is changing the Good Conduct Credit (GCC) by increasing the credit rate (Prop 57)

Given the many questions our law office has received on the new CDCR standardizing the amount of Good Conduct Credit (GCC) by increasing the credit rate for eligible incarcerated people; we provide the explanation below and a refresher of the November 2016, California voters passing Proposition 57, the Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016.


In November 2016, California voters overwhelmingly passed Proposition 57, the Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016. Under Proposition 57, CDCR has incentivized incarcerated people to take responsibility for their own rehabilitation by providing credit-earning opportunities for sustained good behavior, as well as in-prison program and activities participation. Under Proposition 57, incarcerated people increased their Good Conduct Credit earning, and have been given time credits for participation in Milestone Completion Credits, Rehabilitative Achievement Credits, and Educational Merit Credits. Earning additional credits can move up parole consideration of people convicted of nonviolent crimes who have served the full-term of the sentence for their primary offense, and who demonstrate that their release to the community would not pose an unreasonable risk of violence to the community.

As a Reminder: Proposition 57 included three major components designed to improve the juvenile and adult criminal justice system in California.

1) Establishes a parole consideration process for determinately-sentenced and indeterminately-sentenced people convicted of nonviolent crimes, as defined by California Penal Code, who have served the full term for their primary criminal offense and who demonstrate they no longer pose a current, unreasonable risk to the public.

2) Gives incarcerated people the opportunity to earn additional credits for good behavior and participation in rehabilitative, educational, and career training programs so they are better prepared to succeed and less likely to commit new crimes on the outside.

3) Requires judges, rather than prosecutors, to determine whether juveniles charged with certain crimes should be tried in juvenile or adult court.

Effective May 1, 2021, CDCR is standardizing the amount of Good Conduct Credit (GCC) by increasing the credit rate for eligible incarcerated people based on their conviction pursuant to emergency regulations. GCC incentivizes incarcerated people to comply with departmental regulations and prison rules, and to perform the duties assigned on a regular and satisfactory basis.

Gov. Newsom’s administration explains the goals of the new policy, “The goal is to increase incentives for the incarcerated population to practice good behavior and follow the rules while serving their time, and participate in rehabilitative and educational programs, which will lead to safer prisons… Additionally, these changes would help to reduce the prison population by allowing incarcerated persons to earn their way home sooner.”

Good Conduct Credit

GCCs are awarded to eligible individuals who comply with all the rules within a prison and perform their duties as assigned on a regular basis. Increasing the amount of GCC provides a compelling reason for individuals to positively program, as GCC may be forfeited due to disciplinary action.

Effective May 1, 2021, CDCR will increase the rate of GCC earned for individuals serving time under Penal Code 667.5(c) from 20% to 33%, and from 33.3% to 50% for nonviolent second and third strikers.

Minimum Security Credit

Under the emergency regulations, CDCR is establishing the Minimum Security Credit (MSC), which will be awarded to all eligible incarcerated people who work in conservation (fire) camps, are trained as firefighters, or who are assigned to minimum custody status. Effective May 1, 2021, incarcerated people will be awarded 30 days of credit for every 30 continuous days served.

Milestone Completion Credits

MCC is awarded for successful completion of rehabilitative or educational programs designed to prepare participants to find employment upon release.
MCC is awarded in increments of not less than one week, but no more than 12 weeks, in a 12-month period.

Rehabilitative Achievement Credits

RAC is awarded to those who complete specified hours of approved self-help and volunteer public service activities.
10 days of credit may be awarded to someone who completes 52 hours of approved programming in a 12-month period.

Educational Merit Credits

 EMC is awarded for completion of high school diploma or equivalency programs, higher education degrees, or the Offender Mentor Certification Program (OMCP).
 90 calendar days may be awarded for completion of a high school diploma or high school equivalency approved by the Department of Education, while 180 days may be awarded for successful completion of associate, bachelor’s and post-graduate degrees, and the OMCP.

Extraordinary Conduct Credits

An award of up to 12 months of credit may be awarded to those who have performed a heroic act in a life-threatening situation or who have provided exceptional assistance in maintaining the safety and security of a prison.

Under Proposition 57, CDCR increased credits for Good Conduct and Milestone Completion Programs, and introduced credits for Rehabilitative Achievement and Educational Merit. Credit-earning opportunities incentivize incarcerated people to actively participate in their rehabilitation, while earning time off of their sentence.

All people in state prison, except those condemned to death or sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. A Big Thank you for CDCR and BPH for updating their website to provide the latest updates.

We suggest that inmates can contact their counselors or the Case Records department [at their institutions] to ask for a recalculation of their Release Date, if  they believe they have accumulated these credits, that are not reflected in their Central-file.


Saturday, April 24, 2021

BPH's emergency Regulations state the Board is not required to give Comprehensive Risk Assessments (CRA) under certain grounds

 Our law office is getting  many questions regarding the Board of Parole Hearings adopting emergency  regulations regarding Title 15 Ca. Code of Regs. Section 2240 (d); the code that solidified the Comprehensive Risk Assessments (CRA, a.k.a. Psychological evaluation) and its use in parole suitability hearings.  

The increase in the number of people eligible for a parole hearing and number of postponements due to COVID-19 have created an overwhelming demand for parole hearings. This increase in the demand for hearings has also resulted in an overwhelming demand for Comprehensive Risk Assessments (CRAs).

In an effort to provide the most people with parole hearings, the Board has adopted emergency regulations. The Board's emergency regulations explain that risk assessments will not be required for all parole consideration hearings. The Board of Parole Hearings (BPH) recognizes the inmates’ right to a timely parole hearing. The new Regulations DO NOT change the current Parole Hearing schedule nor does it exclude any Lifers (or Long-Term Offender) from having their set Parole Hearing held.

Specifically, these regulations state the Board is not required to prepare a Comprehensive Risk Assessment (CRA) for parole hearings scheduled to occur between April 1, 2021 and June 30, 2022 if the inmate:

1) is  designated by the department (CDCR) to be Security Level IV   and
2) have received two or more serious 115s between January 1, 2018 and Jan 1, 2022.

Will it automatically mean a denial for those impacted by the change? Not necessarily.
This means that if a Lifer who fits the criteria has received a HIGH-risk rating on a past CRA s/he will not receive a new CRA. Keep in mind that less than 1% of those individuals up for parole who present with a HIGH-risk rating are granted parole.

In short, one would need to have 2 serious RVRs within 3 years; the likelihood of  a FAD (BPH) clinician reducing their risk rating (whether from high to moderate or moderate to low) is, almost impossible.  So, while those who fall under these new Regs will not get a new CRA, even if that current document is older than 3 years, they will still get a parole hearing at the scheduled date and time. And they still have the opportunity, uphill battle though it may be, to convince the parole panel of their suitability.

IN SHORT: if you are a Security Level IV inmate, with 2 or more serious RVRs between January 2018 and January 2021 in your jacket, you won’t be getting a new free CRA from BPH! Your hearing will go forward UNLESS the inmates waive or postpone their hearing.

If the inmate believes there was an error and s/he does not meet the grounds for not getting a CRA you or your attorney may challenge the decision not to prepare a CRA, by writing a letter to the Board Chief Counsel; PO BOX 4036; Sacramento, CA 95812-4036. Your letter must be received by the Board at least 30 days before the scheduled hearing to allow time for a pre-hearing response.   

If there is a change in your physical or mental health condition since your last RVR that would be relevant to determining your suitability for parole, you or your attorney may request a CRA. The written request must explain the change and how it is relevant to determining your suitability for parole.

Remember that California prisoners who are housed out of state for reasons ranging from accommodation for various health/family reasons to their own protection, do not receive a CRA either, prior to their California hearings, as the FAD forensic psychologists are not licensed to practice in states other than California.

Just like the out-of-state inmates, there is NOTHING stopping the inmate from hiring their own private Psychologist to administer different actuarial instruments, used by FAD psychologists to mimic the CRA that are used at a Parole Hearing.