Flopped. That is what the men in prison call it when they go in front of the parole board and get back a disappointing decision. Essentially, the board defers a decision but the men will be allowed to petition and be heard again in 2-10 years.

In July, I wrote about my day with the parole board where I observed two “Murder Review” hearings.   As I wrote then, the stated purpose of such hearings is to:  ”determine whether or not the inmate is likely to be rehabilitated within a reasonable period of time so that the offender’s sentence may be converted to life with the possibility of parole, post-prison supervision, or work release.”

To give a quick summary, the cases I sat in on were both for aggravated murder; the question was whether the convicted men could prove themselves “rehabilitatable” so that they might have the possibility of parole at a future date.

The first man presented over 100 pages of records, proof, and testimony that he has worked hard in his 20-years in prison to change and grow.  He has “programmed” persistently and thoroughly, participating in many educational and cognitive courses and experiences over the years.  His crime was a truly horrifying case of domestic violence – there really is no excuse for that crime and no making up for it, and the man acknowledges that.  Members of the victim’s family came to testify at the hearing, and their grief and pain was readily apparent.  They fear his possible release 10 or more years in the future, and they hope that he will serve natural life in prison.   The district attorney who attended the hearing called this man “a monster” and also asked that he be found “not likely to be rehabilitated in a reasonable amount of time.”

Three months later, the decision is in and the man was flopped.  He can petition to go in front of the parole board to attempt to prove himself “rehabilitatable” again in two years.  I’m told it could have been worse; he could have been flopped for 10 years.

He has about 9 years left on the mandatory part of his sentence, so he had no hope of getting out any time soon.  But I’m left to wonder, what does it do to one’s psyche when you are told you are not rehabilitatable and given a list of reasons why the parole board believes that is the case.   It’s hard to imagine a more negative label.

The man just got the decision from the parole board this week and he is still processing it.  He’s trying to figure out what more he could have done and what more he can do over the next years to prove himself worthy of the possibility of a second chance.  I don’t know what it will take for him to get a more favorable decision; it’s obviously difficult to prove and judge change and possibility.  I am very glad that I was simply an observer in this process.   I would hate to have to go in front of a board every 2 years to prove my possible future worth or to have to sit in judgment on someone else’s.

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