Do prisoners have a right to be paroled? And if so, do they have a right to access programming required to be eligible for parole?
As a new decision from the Iowa Supreme Court shows, there’s no easy answer to either question. The court’s ruling, issued before Thanksgiving, denied an effort by seven Iowa prisoners to challenge what they described in court filings as a “Catch-22” that forces some inmates to wait far longer than others to complete their sentences.
The issue before the court involved Iowa’s treatment of convicted sex offenders. All seven plaintiffs are serving sentences for sex offenses. To be eligible for parole, they must complete sex offender treatment programming. But the state prison system has limited capacity to provide this treatment, and a lengthy waiting list, meaning convicted sex offenders likely won’t get access to the required programming until shortly before they’re due to be released anyway.