Lilliana Paratore

  • Hosted by UnCommon Law
  • Sponsored by Apple, 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 increased women lifers’ access to gender-appropriate parole representation and altered 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, and almost 20 percent of these women are serving indeterminate life sentences. For these “lifers”, rather than being released after a set number of years, the Board of Parole Hearings determines their suitability for release. 85-90 percent of women experience domestic, sexual, and/or childhood abuse prior to their incarceration, 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.

Fellowship Highlights

In the past two years, Lilliana has:

  • Represented 17 survivors of gender-based violence in parole consideration hearings. 80 percent of her clients were granted parole; the average parole grant rate is 22 percent in California. Ten of her clients have been released, and she was able to meet five of them at the prison gates as they were reunited with their loved ones
  • Engaged over 30 pro bono attorneys from Apple, Inc. and Baker McKenzie on various projects, including fully representing a client in her parole hearing; drafting a commutation application for a client; drafting, submitting, and negotiating a Public Records Act request to the parole board regarding training materials on intimate partner violence; and providing limited legal services to 35 women
  • Recruited six law students to represent two clients under Lilli’s supervision
  • Conducted legal and other research on how trauma and its effects are treated in other legal fields to begin creating a model for how the California parole board should consider gender-based violence, and trauma more generally, in their decisions

What’s Next

Now that the Fellowship is complete, Lilliana will remain at UnCommon Law as a Staff Attorney, where she will continue advocating for survivors of gender-based violence in California’s women’s prisons and others subject to the discretionary parole process in California.


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