Young v. Harper

LOCATION: Arkansas State Capitol

DOCKET NO.: 95-1598
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

CITATION: 520 US 143 (1997)
ARGUED: Dec 09, 1996
DECIDED: Mar 18, 1997

Margaret Winter - Argued the cause for the respondents
Sandra D. Howard - Argued the cause for the petitioners

Facts of the case

Oklahoma's Preparole Conditional Supervision Program took effect whenever the state prisons became overcrowded and authorized the conditional release of prisoners before their sentences expired. The Pardon and Parole Board determined who could participate in it, and an inmate could be placed on preparole after serving 15% of his sentence. An inmate was eligible for parole only after one third of his sentence had elapsed, and the Governor, based on the Board's recommendation, decided to grant parole. Program participants and parolees were released subject to similar constraints. Upon reviewing Leroy L. Young's criminal record and prison conduct, the Board recommended him for parole and released him under the Program. At that time, he had served 15 years of a life sentence. After he spent five months outside the penitentiary, the Governor denied him parole, whereupon he was ordered to, and did, report back to prison. Despite his claim that his summary reincarceration deprived him of liberty without due process in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, he was denied habeas relief by the state trial court, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, and the Federal District Court. The Court of Appeals reversed. It held that preparole was sufficiently like parole that a Program participant was entitled to procedural protections.


Is Oklahoma's Preparole Conditional Supervision Program sufficiently like parole that participants are entitled to procedural protections, such as the due process safeguards set forth in the Fourteenth Amendment?

Media for Young v. Harper

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 09, 1996 in Young v. Harper

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - March 18, 1997 in Young v. Harper

Clarence Thomas:

This comes to us on a writ of certiorari to Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.

The state of Oklahoma operated two programs by which prisoners were released before the expiration of their sentences.

One was parole, the other was called a preparole program, full name, Preparole Conditional Supervision Program.

With respect to the traditional parole program, an inmate could be paroled if one third of his sentence had expired and if the Governor on the Pardon and Parole’s recommendation granted parole.

With respect to preparole, the Board itself, could grant preparole when Oklahoma’s prisons were overcrowded and two, the prisoner had served 15% of his sentence or her sentence.

The conditions under which parolees and preparolees were released were essentially identical.

Respondent was released on a preparole program after serving 15 years of a life sentence.

After five, apparently, uneventful months on the program, the Governor of Oklahoma denied him parole and he was promptly reincarcerated.

He filed a state habeas corpus petition contending that his summary return to prison violated the procedural protection set forth in our decision in Morrissey versus Brewer.

The State Trial and Appellate Courts denied habeas relief as did the Federal District Court.

The Tenth Circuit reversed concluding that preparole was enough like parole that respondent was entitled to the procedures set out in Morrissey.

In an opinion filed with the Clerk today, we affirm.

Preparole as it existed when responded was released was equivalent to parole as understoodin Morrissey.

Indeed, it appears to have different in parole in name only.

While the respondent’s liberty went on preparole was not unconditional, its limitations were can, if not identical to the limitations on a parolee’s release.

In Morrissey we held that such limitations did not render a parolee's liberty beyond procedural protection.

The opinion of the Court is unanimous.