Lilliana Paratore

  • Hosted by UnCommon Law
  • Sponsored by Apple, Inc., Baker McKenzie
  • Service location Oakland, California
  • Law school University of California, Berkeley, School of Law
  • Issue area Domestic Violence
  • Fellowship class year 2017
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

This project will increase women lifers’ access to gender-appropriate parole representation and alter the manner in which the California Board of Parole Hearings considers gendered trauma in their decisions.

Women are the fastest growing correctional population in California, almost 20% of whom are serving indeterminate life sentences. Rather than being released after a set number of years, the Board of Parole Hearings determines whether “lifers” can safely be released. Prior to their incarceration, 85-90% of women experience domestic, sexual, and/or childhood abuse (“gendered trauma”), which often is a causative factor of their incarceration. But current parole law does not adequately consider gendered trauma in determining suitability for parole. Without legal recognition of gendered trauma, women lifers will continue to be imprisoned, despite the fact that they no longer pose a risk to society. While time, self-reflection, and maturity allow women to understand the traumas that contributed to their crimes, under current law, they are unable to transform their understandings into meaningful opportunities for release.

Highlights to Date

In the first year, Lilli has:

  • Successfully represented five clients in their parole consideration hearings, three of whom were found suitable for parole and will rejoin their families in the coming year;
  • Begun representing nine additional clients;
  • Conducted pro bono training and secured pro bono assistance for 25 life-sentenced women through a pro bono project with volunteer attorneys from Apple, Inc. and Baker McKenzie;
  • Partnered with volunteer attorneys from Baker McKenzie to file Public Records Act requests with the Board, aimed at gathering the policies and practices that currently govern how commissioners are trained on considering intimate partner battering in their decisions.

What’s Next

In the next year, Lilli plans to:

  • Continue representing clients in their parole consideration hearings and expand her caseload to reach more clients;
  • Continue working with Apple, Inc. and Baker McKenzie to expand pro bono opportunities for volunteer attorneys, including by filing a commutation application for a life-sentenced woman;
  • Analyze and assess the documentation gathered through Public Records Act requests, and determine how legislative action may be used to address any inadequacies;
  • Survey her clients on the effectiveness of her representation and approach, and, based on this information, draft training materials on how to best represent this population of clients.

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Ramey Ko

Host: Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Inc.

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