Problems with Parole


The recent parole hearing of David McCallum points to a flaw in the system. On the one hand, a wrongly convicted prisoner may choose not to show remorse for a crime he hasn’t committed. His desperation to leave prison is overcome by his need to be vindicated; his life has no meaning and no chance of even getting a job if he admits that he’s done a heinous crime and leaves prison as a convicted murderer.  Moreover, if he admits to a crime after decades of denying involvement, then he’s seen as a liar for having held out all of those years.

In actuality, the requirements around parole do not necessitate that a prisoner express remorse. He or she needs to have demonstrated by his or her behavior a readiness to re-enter the community. But a larger flaw in the system allows parole commissioners to ignore  the rules and the legislation. Even though the process of selection is supposed to be random, one individual commissioner can follow one particular prisoner from hearing to hearing. This has happened in McCallum’s case where James Ferguson, a former prosecutor who is also the son of a police officer, will not accept that David might be telling the truth, even after he has spent 28 years proclaiming his innocence. Ferguson uses the parole board hearings as a prosecutor retrying the case. He insists that David shot a young man in order to escape identification in a carjacking. He insists that he knows when a young person is lying or telling the truth by observing a confession tape. But no scientist in the world makes the claim that such certainty is near possible, even with the use of sophisticated technology. And he makes claims that are patently false, the most egregious being that David’s confession is fully corroborated. David’s confession is not even partially corroborated, even by his co-convicted. He would never have been convicted if he had a decent lawyer. Even the DA’s office has admitted that! The whole case against McCallum is his ‘confession’; Ferguson makes it plain that he cannot accept that a police officer would force a 16 year African American to confess to a crime. Like Javert, he follows McCallum, believing that he’s a force for justice. AT LEAST JEAN VALJEAN STOLE A LOAF OF BREAD!!

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About ken

I am a former Toronto teacher and writer now living in Vancouver. I work with Dr. Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter, with whom I published Eye of the Hurricane: My path from Darkness to Freedom (Chicago review Press, 2011), as Director of Media Relations and as an advocate for wrongly convicted prisoners. Other publication credits include Songs of Aging Children (Arsenal Pulp Press, 1992) a book of short stories about troubled youth, and Taking Steam, a play co-authored with the late Brian Shein, staged at New York's Jewish Repertory Theatre and Toronto in 1983. Life Without (Quattro Books, 2012) is a novella about a New York cab driver wrongly convicted of killing his pregnant wife. Gary Geddes (Lt. Governor's Award for Literary Excellence) described it as "one of the most brilliant and harrowing short novels I've read since I went on a John Hawkes binge."

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