UnCommon Law provides quality parole hearing representation pro bono or at reduced rates for people serving life sentences. Over the course of months — and sometimes years — we engage in trauma-informed, healing-centered mental health and legal counseling to establish an administrative record in their parole hearings that will either result in a parole grant or, if the Board denies parole, provide a solid chance at success in the courts. UCL representation includes regular meetings with clients to discuss life histories and life choices, identify patterns, and work to unpack the underlying issues that contributed to the person’s pathway to crime. We create significant event life timelines, develop relapse prevention plans, use emotional and behavioral worksheets and exercises, give homework assignments, assign reading, review book reports, send letters of guidance and support, encourage program participation with integrated reflection, review past transcripts, and together develop a deeper understanding of who the person was, is, and plans to be. Each client’s trauma-informed, healing-centered plan is unique and can include any combination of Parole Success Advocates — attorney, social worker, therapist, law student, intern or other counselor. At the hearing itself, a UCL attorney represents the client, lets the client tell their story, and guides the process only as necessary.
Currently, UCL is accepting clients with whom we can work for at least six months and who are located at the following institutions: San Quentin State Prison, Deuel Vocational Institution-Tracy, California Medical Facility-Vacaville, California Healthcare Facility-Stockton, CSP- Solano, and the Central California Women’s Facility.
When UnCommon Law is not able to provide full parole hearing representation, UCL offers written consultations. For a consultation, UCL reviews the client’s records — including prior parole hearing transcripts, psychological evaluations, and accomplishments and discipline while incarcerated. Based on this information, the client is provided a detailed letter, outlining what the client can do order to improve their chances of success, which may include petitioning the Board for an earlier hearing if the client has already received a parole denial. While all feedback and advice is provided in written form, clients can also request an in-person visit if they are housed at one of the six prisons listed above.
HABEAS PETITIONS + Class Action Litigation
UnCommon Law also challenges decisions by the Board and the Governor in court. Having represented thousands of life sentenced people in individual and class action litigation over a dozen years, UCL has learned the most effective ways to advocate for clients in the Superior Court, Court of Appeal, and California Supreme Court when challenging the Board’s denial of parole or the Governor’s reversal of a parole grant.