January 7, 2019

Federal Judge Certifies Class Action Lawsuit Against Parole System for Unconstitutionally Re-incarcerating Thousands Annually

Contact: Amy Breihan

Phone: 314 254 8540

Email: amy.breihan@macarthurjustice.org

St. Louis – A federal court has certified a class-action lawsuit alleging the State of Missouri re-incarcerates thousands of people in defiance of U.S. Supreme Court rulings guaranteeing that parolees receive certain due process protections when states consider depriving them of their liberty due to alleged parole violations.

Judge Stephen R. Bough in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri granted class certification in a case filed in 2017 by the MacArthur Justice Center (MJC) of Missouri on behalf of seven parolees and a class of similarly situated individuals.

The lawsuit (Gasca v. Precythe) alleges the Missouri Department of Corrections (MDOC) and its Division of Probation and Parole (Parole Board) ignores decades-old constitutional standards in conducting parole revocation proceedings, resulting in the unlawful re-incarceration of thousands of people every year.

“The U.S. Supreme Court has given very clear direction about what paroling authorities have to do to ensure that those on community supervision receive meaningful due process before they are thrown back behind bars,” said Amy Breihan, Director of the MJC’s Missouri office. “Yet in Missouri we see an unfair and fundamentally flawed parole revocation system that results in thousands being reincarcerated for minor violations without being informed of or provided their full constitutional rights.”

The rate of incarceration in Missouri is among the highest in the nation, due in part to the inability of parolees to present evidence in fair hearings and challenge even such minor allegations as missing a meeting with a parole officer or loss of a job – occurrences that often do not amount to willful violations. The Parole Board considers parole revocation for over 6,000 individuals each year without offering anyone an attorney, and it conducts almost no hearings before revocation, according to the lawsuit.

“Perhaps the most shocking aspect of the flawed parole revocation in Missouri is that these parolees are never told that they might have the right to an attorney, let alone provided with one,” said MJC attorney Megan Crane.

“This ruling reflects the systemic nature of the problem in Missouri,” Breihan said. “Freedom has been taken away from thousands of Missourians, and taxpayers pay the bill for the unnecessary incarceration and damage done to the lives of the parolees, their families, and their communities. This should be a wake-up call to MDOC and its Parole Board that they can no longer avoid its constitutional obligations to the citizens it supervises.”

Read more about Gasca v. Precythe at the MacArthur Justice Center’s website.