Indeterminate Sentence Review Board (ISRB) Proceedings for Certain Juveniles with Lengthy Prison Sentences

What is the ISRB?

The ISRB is part of the Department of Corrections.  It is made up of a Chairperson and three additional members appointed by the Governor to serve five-year terms.  The Board reviews three kinds of cases: 1) cases where an offender was sentenced prior to 1984, under the old parole system; 2) certain limited cases involving sexual offenders; and 3) under new legislation enacted in 2014, cases involving juveniles sentenced to adult prison sentences of at least 20 years.

What does the new legislation do for juveniles with lengthy sentences?

The new legislation, often referred to by its legislative bill number (“2SSB 5064”) is codified in RCW 9.94A.730 and RCW 10.95.030.    The new legislation makes it possible, as discussed below, for certain juveniles sentenced to lengthy sentences to petition for ISRB review.  After review, the ISRB then has the authority to order the petitioner’s release.

When can a person submit a petition for review and when can it be submitted?

For a person convicted of aggravated first-degree murder for an offense committed prior to the person’s 16th birthday:

  • A petition may be filed after the person has served 25 years of total confinement. Note that under the new legislation, juveniles convicted of aggravated first-degree murder committed before age 16 cannot be sentenced to a mandatory minimum term of more than 25 years.

For a person convicted of aggravated first-degree murder for an offense committed after the person’s 16th birthday but before the person’s 18th birthday:

  • A petition may be filed once that person has served his or her minimum term. Note that under the new legislation, juveniles convicted of aggravated first-degree murder committee between age 16 and age 18 must be sentenced to a minimum term of at least 25 years.

For a person convicted of crimes other than aggravated first-degree murder or certain sexual offenses committed prior to the person’s 18th birthday:

  • A petition may be filed after serving 20 years of total confinement, provided that these two conditions are met:
    • The person was not convicted of any crimes after turning 18.
    • The person does not have any major prison infractions or violations for the 12 months right before filing the petition.

At the moment, “total confinement” is interpreted by the ISRB to include all county jail time but to exclude earned-release time.

Is the Department of Corrections (DOC) supposed to do anything to get a petitioner ready for his or her ISRB review?

Yes!  The new legislation requires that once a person eligible to petition under the new legislation is within 5 years of the time he or she can file a petition, the DOC shall conduct an assessment of the person and identify programming and services that would be appropriate to prepare   the offender for return to the community.  The DOC must then make such programming available “to the extent possible.”

Will a petitioner have a psychological or other evaluation?

Yes.  After the DOC receives a timely-filed petition, it must conduct an “examination of the person” regarding future dangerousness and the likelihood of the person committing new criminal offenses.

What standard does the ISRB apply in making a decision to release or not release a petitioner?

The legislation provides that the ISRB shall order the petitioner released under such conditions as the ISRB deems appropriate unless the ISRB determines by a preponderance of the evidence that despite such conditions, it is more likely than not that the person will commit more crimes if released.

In addition to a person’s DOC file, what else might the ISRB consider in making a decision to release or not release a petitioner?

Petitioners can and should submit their own materials demonstrating their good character, rehabilitation, and support.

Who else will the ISRB contact about a pending petition?

The prosecuting attorney’s office is notified, as is the victim or victim’s surviving family members.  The ISRB must provide opportunities for victims and their families to provide input.

What happens at the ISRB hearing?

At the hearing, which takes place at the petitioner’s prison facility, the assigned corrections officer will give a summary of the petitioner’s prison record to the ISRB.  The petitioner is present at the hearing and will be asked direct questions by some or all of the ISRB members.  The petitioner’s attorney, if he or she has one, may be allowed to make statements and ask questions too.  Typically, no other persons are allowed to be at the ISRB hearing. It is important to note that sometimes these are televised on TVW. All written materials as well as everything that happens at the hearing may be matters of public record.

What happens after the ISRB hearing?

After the hearing, the ISRB will issue a written decision, which usually takes several weeks or months after the hearing.

Can I file without a lawyer?

Yes, petitioners can and do file without lawyers involved at all.  Other petitioners choose to consult with a lawyer who is well-versed in the process of filing the petition in order to get guidance, advice, and tips without going to the expense of hiring a lawyer to complete the petition or appear at any hearing.

Am I allowed to have a lawyer help me?

At the moment, yes, lawyers are being allowed to file materials on behalf of petitioners and to appear at the hearings. You are not, however, entitled to have a lawyer appointed to help you, even if you are indigent.

Where can I get more information?

Go to the website of the Washington State ISRB Board.