The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation oversees the largest population of inmates serving life terms, or “lifers,” in the country. Every year, over 1800 of these lifers go before the Board of Parole Hearings, and around 75% are denied parole. Proposition 9, or Marsy’s Law, dramatically changed the consequences of that denial. Previously, when lifers were denied parole, they typically waited a maximum of two years to have the opportunity to plead their case again. Under the new system implemented by Marsy’s Law, lifers who are denied parole must presumptively wait fifteen years for another chance at release. Though many scholars have examined the decision to grant or deny parole, almost nothing has been written about the related decision of how long to defer the reconsideration of parole after a denial. Given the sheer magnitude of the change ushered in by Marsy’s Law, we seek fill this void in the literature by empirically exploring the operation of this new system in practice. This Note ultimately finds evidence that several extralegal considerations, such as gender and commissioner identity, may be influencing the length of deferral periods granted under this new regime. It also provides a firm empirical footing for our recommendation that new guidelines be promulgated that specifically address this phase of the parole decisionmaking process.


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