Three class action lawsuits have been filed in Federal Court challenging how Illinois handles parole violations. The lawsuit is challenging how Illinois handles the more than 10,000 parole revocation hearings that are held each year. According to the lawsuit, more than 40 percent of the inmates being held by the Illinois Department of Corrections are being held because of parole violations. Many of the inmates how are taken into custody for violating their parole wait for weeks or months before a hearing is held to determine if they are guilty of the violations. The lawsuit also alleges that some inmates are held in custody even after the criminal cases that were the subject of the violations was dismissed. The fight against the broken parole violations system is being fought on two fronts. The first front involves a federal lawsuit that was filed in 2006. As a result of the lawsuit consent decree was entered requiring that the Illinois Department of Corrections conduct hearings in a timely matter. A petition has been filed in that case alleging that Illinois has violated the consent decree by not conducting hearings as required by the consent decree. An evidentiary hearing has been held in that case and a decision from the court should be forthcoming. The class action lawsuit is not only alleging that hearings are taking too long but the lawsuit is also challenging how the parole hearings are being held. Parolees are not being given an attorney. Once parolees are taken into custody, they are only given minutes to decide whether they want a hearing. If they want a hearing they must immediately provide a list of witnesses with their contact information, or else they will lose the right to call the witnesses at their hearing. They do not have the right to an attorney at a hearing. Of the 344 cases studied by the attorneys filing the class action lawsuits, only 4 hearings were lost by the state.
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