SCSJ challenges North Carolina’s parole system 

Justice System Reform

RALEIGH, NC (Aug. 22, 2023) — Southern Coalition for Social Justice is representing a man who has been incarcerated for more than 40 years, who has been continually and unjustly denied parole.

SCSJ is challenging North Carolina’s parole system in federal court on behalf of Brett Abrams, who was sentenced to life in prison in 1983 at the age of 14 for a senseless and tragic crime he committed. For the last 15 years, Abrams has been in minimum custody and on work release, successfully working in the community for at least 40 hours a week. He has not had any infraction in 17 years, has received his GED, and taken advantage of classes, therapeutic opportunities, and community enrichment options.

Despite his impressive prison record, Abrams has been repeatedly denied parole since 1993. The lawsuit challenges the Parole Commission’s process as being arbitrary and capricious, and failing to provide a meaningful opportunity for Abrams to receive parole as required under the Eighth Amendment.

“The NC Parole Commission is required to provide a meaningful opportunity for people like Brett Abrams, who was 14 years old when he was sent to prison, to demonstrate maturity and rehabilitation, and be seriously considered for parole,” said Jake Sussman, Interim Chief Counsel for Justice System Reform at SCSJ. “That has not happened for Mr. Abrams and others in his situation. We hope this lawsuit will expose this constitutional violation and help fix North Carolina’s broken parole system.”

In 2015, U.S. District Judge Terrence W. Boyle ruled in Hayden v. Keller that North Carolina’s parole review process for people convicted and sentenced as children violated the U.S. Constitution by not giving a meaningful opportunity to demonstrate maturity and rehabilitation.

SCSJ filed a note of appearance on behalf of Abrams on August 11, 2023.