Garner v. Jones, 529 U.S. 244, 7 (2000)

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Opinion of the Court

mission. Collins v. Youngblood, 497 U. S. 37, 42 (1990) (citing Beazell v. Ohio, 269 U. S. 167, 169-170 (1925)). Retroactive changes in laws governing parole of prisoners, in some instances, may be violative of this precept. See Lynce v. Mathis, 519 U. S. 433, 445-446 (1997) (citing Weaver v. Graham, 450 U. S. 24, 32 (1981)); Morales, 514 U. S., at 508-509. Whether retroactive application of a particular change in parole law respects the prohibition on ex post facto legislation is often a question of particular difficulty when the discretion vested in a parole board is taken into account.

Our recent decision in Morales is an appropriate beginning point. There a California statute changed the frequency of reconsideration for parole from every year to up to every three years for prisoners convicted of more than one homicide. Id., at 503. We found no ex post facto violation, emphasizing that not every retroactive procedural change creating a risk of affecting an inmate's terms or conditions of confinement is prohibited. Id., at 508-509. The question is "a matter of 'degree.' " Id., at 509 (quoting Beazell, supra, at 171). The controlling inquiry, we determined, was whether retroactive application of the change in California law created "a sufficient risk of increasing the measure of punishment attached to the covered crimes." 514 U. S., at 509.

The amended California law did not violate this standard. It did not modify the statutory punishment imposed for any particular offenses. Nor did the amendment alter the standards for determining either the initial date for parole eligibility or an inmate's suitability for parole. Id., at 507. The amendment did not change the basic structure of California's parole law. It vested the California parole board with discretion to decrease the frequency with which it reconsidered parole for a limited class, consisting of prisoners convicted of more than one homicide. Id., at 507, 510. If the board determined a low likelihood of release existed for a member within that class, it could set the prisoner's next consider-

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