Demanding Admissions of Guilt as a Condition for Parole

There was an interesting article in the New York Times (and part two here) about how at least New York Parole boards are starting to move away from the position that an offender has to admit guilt as a precondition of parole. As more and more exonerations have shown us, a prisoner’s claims of innocence are real. Additionally, parole board’s often demand the offender accept the victim’s versions of events when the truth is somewhere between the two positions. More troubling is the continued belief that confession is good for the soul. Many habitual offenders are very good at apologizing and showing remorse when caught. The problem is that they go right out and commit new crimes again. Conversely, the individuals who do not feign a confession to get their freedom may be demonstrating much higher moral character. Then there is the question of a pending appeal. An individual maintains their Fifth Amendment right to remain silent through the conclusion of their direct appeal. These procedures place too high a tax on the defendant exercising his/her Fifth Amendment rights.

The United States Supreme Court
split badly the last time the question was before them about whether an offender could assert the Fifth Amendment privilege of self-incrimination without penalty at a parole interview. The deciding vote was Justice O’Connor who has since left the Court.