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  • Writer's pictureOffice of Rep. Vargas

House Passes Judiciary IT Bond Bill – Includes Vargas Amendment to Record Parole Hearings

Updated: May 18, 2023

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Media Contact:   Mallory Strain 978-228-1233 | mallory.strain@mahouse.gov  

Thursday July 21st – Boston – The Massachusetts House of Representatives approved a Judiciary Information Technology bill today that included an amendment to require all parole hearings to be recorded. The amendment also authorized funding for the Parole Board to cover the costs of recording and securely storing hearing audio.

The amendment was sponsored by Representative Andy Vargas, D-Haverhill. Representative Vargas served as the House Chair of the Commission on Structural Racism in the Parole Process established as part of the state’s police reform bill. The Commission issued a report with recommendations earlier this year, including a recommendation to record parole hearings. Currently, most individuals appearing before the Parole Board are not permitted to have legal representation, nor are their hearings recorded. 97 percent of cases are for individuals serving non-life sentences, who are not permitted to have representation or recorded hearings. Individuals with life sentences have their hearings recorded and are permitted legal representation. This has raised questions about transparency around the parole process, prompting the Commission’s recommendation to record hearings.

“As we work to improve our justice system, a deeper understanding of what happens during critical decision-making hearings is key. We heard from families, advocates, victims, and incarcerated individuals that all shared that it would be most transparent and beneficial to have every hearing recorded. This is a significant step towards increasing transparency, and I’m proud that the House has moved to adopt this measure.” - Representative Andy Vargas, D-Haverhill.

The MA House has begun to enact the recommendations from the parole commission that are within its purview. In addition to adopting the Vargas amendment, the House also included removing parole and probation supervision fees in their FY’23 budget; this measure was another recommendation of the Commission.

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