By Natasha Robin | WVUE | January 27, 2021
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) – District Attorney Jason Williams directs his prosecutors to no longer oppose the parole of an inmate, no matter the nature of the crime.
“What we’re not going to do is blanketly oppose all parole hearings,” says Jason Williams.
District Attorney Jason Williams’ new policy was first sent to prosecutors in a memo from the office’s civil rights chief Emily Maw.
Williams says he made a commitment to end mass incarceration.
“If somebody has served their debt to society, if they’ve served their time for the offense that was committed, and the appropriate experts at the parole board believe they deserve to be back out in society, we’re not getting in the way of that,” says Williams.
Williams says the previous administration under D.A. Leon Cannizzaro opposed every parole, but according to a former administrator in Cannizzaro’s office, Cannizzaro directed his prosecutors to look at each individual case before deciding whether or not to oppose.
“We can’t have these sort of knee-jerk reactions to keeping people in jail at all costs when there’s no safety benefit to it,” says Williams.
Rafael Goyeneche of the Metropolitan Crime Commission says the attorney-client privilege that exists between prosecutors and victims shouldn’t stop at sentencing.
“In many respects, the victims are still scared by their violent crime encounter and prosecutors recognize that. So, they assist the victims at parole hearings in talking to them and informing the parole board what the wishes are of the victims,” says Goyeneche.
“At no point in time is a victim or a victim’s family going to be left to navigate the criminal legal system. This office will be there to support them in the beginning of the case and at the end of the case,” says Williams.
Williams says his office will assist victims or their families who oppose the parole of a prisoner to make sure their message is delivered to the parole board.
Goyeneche says there should be no blanket policy.
“I think that’s a dangerous precedent to set because it’s not the law that’s a problem, it’s the application of the law, so whether to oppose parole needs to be made on a case by case basis,” says Goyeneche.
“I understand the fear and concern when you hear that we’re no longer blanketly opposing all parole hearings, but that is not in a vacuum without input from victims and the victim’s family,” says Williams.
He says exceptions will be made in extraordinary cases.
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