Parole Board releases final list of inmates due new hearings

CLEVELAND (AP) - Inmate advocates are upset that the Ohio Parole Board intends to grant far fewer hearings for inmates than what had been expected from an Ohio Supreme Court order.
The board earlier projected that up to 4,000 inmates would get rehearings after the court ordered the board to stop its practice of placing prisoners in higher offense categories that their convictions required. Instead, just 2,098 inmates will get hearings.
The board has paroled 84 prisoners following 106 new hearings since mid-March, The Plain Dealer reported Saturday. The other 22 will continue their sentences.
"The early results are both encouraging and depressing," said Charles Clovis of the state public defender's office, who represented inmates in the Supreme Court case.
"The high percentage of inmates receiving parole is certainly welcome, but it's depressing that almost all of them have served years longer than the maximum possible sentence for the same crimes today," he said.
Clovis said many more inmates should get new hearings.
The roster is to be posted in state prisons within two weeks, along with forms for others to request new hearings, said Richard Spence, the Parole Board official who compiled the list.
Justices on Dec. 18 ordered the nine-member parole board to stop calculating hearing dates based on the offenses for which prisoners were indicted, instead of those for which they were convicted.
Ohio's 1996 "truth-in-sentencing" law set definite terms of imprisonment that bypass the parole board. But it left prisoners sentenced to indefinite terms before 1996 at the board's mercy. The rehearings were spurred in part by lawsuits filed on behalf of thousands of those inmates.
The board had difficulty compiling the list because it didn't keep data on which inmates had been placed in higher offense categories, Spence said.
The board generated a preliminary list of about 5,500 inmates who appeared to qualify for new hearings in April -- but said then that 3,000 to 4,000 would likely be eligible.
State prisons spokeswoman Andrea Dean cautioned against extrapolating the 79 percent release rate from the first batch of hearings to the remaining 95 percent of cases to be considered.
Many of the 84 inmates being paroled served far beyond their minimum sentences, board records show.
Paris Valles, scheduled to be paroled June 9, has served nearly nine years of a two-to-10-year sentence for attempted felonious assault.
Valles, 30, also was indicted for aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary and felonious assault, but that those charges were dropped in a plea bargain, Cuyahoga County court records show.
His conviction on the lesser charge should have placed him in an offense category that would have required him to serve two to three years under board guidelines. The board instead placed him in a category that requires serving seven years before the first parole hearing.
"The maximum you can receive today for felonious assault is eight years," Clovis said. "That's inexplicable."
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)