MAYSON L. SIMMONS, Petitioner,
WARDEN JENNIE HANSEN, Respondent.
herself, Mayson L. Simmons has filed a petition for a writ of
habeas corpus alleging: (1) a parole report contained false
disciplinary actions from prior incarceration; (2) her
request to view her parole file was denied and left her
without the ability to confirm or contest information in the
report; (3) Board member Brad Newman incorrectly described
Simmons's failure to follow Board recommendations as an
inability to follow the law; and (4) that Simmons maintains
she has a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which has not
been considered by the Board or addressed during
incarceration. Counsel for the Department of Corrections
(Department or DOC) has filed a response.
Department has provided the Court with Simmons's history.
Simmons is currently incarcerated in the Montana Women's
Prison (MWP) in Billings, Montana, where she is serving
sentences imposed in two criminal cases arising in the
Twenty-First Judicial District Court, Ravalli County. The
Board granted Simmons parole on May 23, 2014, and Simmons
remained on parole until her arrest on May 2, 2018.
7, 2018, Simmons had an on-site hearing at the Missoula
County Detention Center, at which time Hearing Officer Sean
Goeddel found there was probable cause to believe Simmons was
guilty of two parole violations: absconding out of state
without permission and selling prescription drugs. Simmons
was returned to MWP for a revocation hearing before the
Board. Her first hearing was set for June 19, 2018, and
Simmons requested a continuance. The Board granted her
request and Simmons appeared before the Board on July 24,
2018. Simmons participated via Skype. The Board determined
Simmons violated her parole and returned her to MWP. In its
Case Disposition, the Board noted a reappearance date of July
2019 and handwrote "May reappear before date upon
completion of Recommended Programming." The Board also
indicated that Simmons must complete evaluations and an
improved release plan.
the July 24, 2018 hearing, Simmons sent a request to MWP
Institutional Probation and Parole Officer (IPPO) Fred Sparks
to review her parole file. IPPO Sparks responded:
"Negative. We don't have one." Parole records
are stored at the Board's office in Deer Lodge and were
not available at MWP. At the July 24, 2018 hearing, Simmons
did not request to review her parole records and the Board
was not thereafter made aware of Simmons's request to
21, 2019, Simmons sent another kite to IPPO Sparks, asking to
review her parole record. IPPO Sparks responded to
Simmons's kite but did not address the request to review
her file. Two days later, on May 23, 2019, Simmons wrote a
letter to Board Chair Annette Carter and included at the end
in a postscript: "ps I want to see my file also."
In an affidavit submitted with the DOC's response, Chair
Carter did not see the postscript and, as a result, did not
respond to the request. She further indicated that had she
seen Simmons's request she would have provided Simmons an
opportunity to review her parole file.
next parole hearing was July 16, 2019. During the period
between the July 2018 hearing and the July 2019 hearing,
Simmons sent more than 35 letters to the Board and received
several responses from Chair Carter encouraging Simmons to
complete the Board's recommendations. Simmons's
correspondence to the Board did not contain any requests to
see her parole file, nor did she advise the Board at the July
2019 hearing that she had not had an opportunity to review
her parole file. Further, Simmons reviewed the parole report
prepared for her July 2019 hearing on July 2, 2019, making
several written corrections or explanations before she
initialed each page of the report.
12, 2019, prior to Simmons's hearing, Chair Carter
responded to Simmons's concerns about previous
disciplinary actions taken in 2012 and 2013, which were
included in the parole report. Chair Carter indicated the
Board would consider only Simmons's conduct during her
16, 2019, Simmons appeared for her parole hearing via Skype.
The Board determined that Simmons had refused to follow
recommended programming as required and passed her to
discharge December 15, 2019. With this history set forth, we
turn to the issues Simmons raises.
"habeas corpus relief is not available to determine
whether other constitutional rights have been violated."
Sage v. Gamble, 279 Mont. 459, 463, 929 P.2d 822,
824 (1996). However, if the inmate is alleging a due process
violation which is directly related to the legality of
continued incarceration, then habeas corpus relief may be
appropriate. Sage, 279 Mont, at 463, 929 P.2d at
Board has authority to exercise broad discretion to determine
when the statutory criteria for early release from
incarceration have been met. In making this determination,
the Board must consider "all pertinent information
regarding the prisoner." McDermott v. McDonald,
2001 MT 89, ¶ 25, 305 Mont. 166, 24 P.3d 200. Parole may
be offered when the Board determines that an offender
"can be released without detriment to the prisoner or
the community[, ]" when "release is in the best
interests of society[, ]" when the offender is
"able and willing to fulfill the obligations of a
law-abiding citizen[, ]" and when the offender does not
require "continued correctional treatment . . . ."
Section 46-23-208(1)(a)-(d)(i), MCA. The Board determined
that Simmons had not satisfied the condition that she
complete recommended programing. Accordingly, Simmons's
refusal to follow the Board's recommendations led to the
denial of her parole. Simmons's allegations that the DOC
physician who evaluated her did not correctly diagnose her as
having PTSD and that Brad Newman indicated she could not
follow the law does not alter the basis upon which the Board
determined she should not be granted parole. Regarding
Simmons's allegation that the parole report contained
false disciplinary actions from prior incarcerations, the
Board did not rely on this information and it is unnecessary
to consider further this alleged error.
remaining allegations concerning access to her parole file
are disposed of pursuant to Lacey v. Kirkegard, No.
OP 13-0828, 374 Mont. 542, 346 P.3d 364, 2014 Mont. LEXIS
209. In Lacey, this Court held that while an inmate
has a right to review her parole file because the file
contains documents of a public body to which the right to
know applies, it is the inmate that is at fault when she
fails "to request a delay in [the] parole hearing to
allow [her] sufficient time to review the file."
Lacey, 2014 Mont. LEXIS at *5. Here, Simmons
corresponded to Chair Carter frequently and never made a
request to see the Board's file, other than as a
postscript after her parole revocation hearing. Simmons made
corrections and reviewed her parole report and thereafter
appeared for her reappearance hearing. She made no request to
review her parole file. Pursuant to Lacey, Simmons
was required to request a delay in the hearing in order to
review her file.
IT IS ORDERED that Simmons's Petition for a Writ of
Habeas Corpus is DENIED and DISMISSED.
Clerk is directed to provide a copy of this Order to counsel