Classification & Parole

Ferreira v. Spencer, et al. – This case challenges DOC’s disciplinary and classification response to prisoners found with cell phones. Currently, DOC’s practice is to charge the prisoner with a level 2 offense: Possession of Tools Likely to be Used in an Escape. Upon guilty finding, prisoners are then reclassified and scored under the Classification Manual as having an escape history. All of this occurs even where there is absolutely no evidence or suggestion that the phone was being used for an escape or escape plan. On October 1, 2013, the Court ruled in favor of the prisoner, declaring that the guilty finding must be vacated because there was no evidence that Ferreira was using the cell phone to plan an escape. Although we have learned that DOC has stopped treating several other prisoners as escape risks based on possession of a cell phone, we will monitor how DOC treats prisoners found with cell phones to determine if further litigation is necessary.

Archer v. Chairman, Massachusetts Parole Board Challenge to Parole Board’s parole revocation procedures for second degree lifers. Although the Supreme Court and the Board’s own regulations provide that parolees serving life sentences should have a revocation hearing within 60 days of return to custody, under the Board’s practice, these hearings are routinely delayed for more than six months, and prisoners frequently wait for more than a year before receiving a decision. The problem is that the Board conducts two hearings, the first which focuses only on whether the parolee violated a condition of parole is held in time. But the Board then conducts a second hearing to determine whether the violation deserves revocation, and this hearing is delayed for months. On June 26, 2015, the court granted Defendant’s motion to dismiss, ruling that the first hearing was sufficient. We have appealed and briefs are filed, including an Amicus from Harvard and NE prison assistance projects. Oral argument was held October 18, 2016.