According to the United States Department of Justice (USDOJ), governmental authorities in the U.S. monitored around 1.5% of all American adults through community supervision in 2020.
Additionally, the Pew Charitable Trusts reported that twice as many Americans as incarcerated individuals are on probation or parole.
The massive supervised community has impacted the ability of state and local community corrections agencies to provide an optimum return on investment (ROI) for public safety, which includes paroled inmates of federal, state, and local prisons.
If either you or a loved one, including a family member, is applying for parole, the parole process may seem baffling. That is due to the complex parole procedures that include application, approval, or denial based on parole considerations, implementation, and release conditions.
At lookupinmate.org, we can help clarify such issues and provide a tool to search for an inmate. We also gathered the essential information and links to relevant websites to help you conduct your search.
Please continue reading to learn what a parole hearing is, when a correctional institution releases a prisoner upon an approved application, and how to apply for parole.
We also cover the deciding factors for which a board grants parole and the steps inmates can take in the event of parole denial.
What Exactly Is a Parole Hearing?
Parole is a type of community supervision in the federal and state corrections systems. It is a type of clemency that reduces the severity of punishment due.
The term “parole” originates from the French word parol, which in English means “word of honor.” It refers to prisoners of war (POWs) who promised to avoid fighting in a current conflict if their captor released them.
U.S. historians often credit the physician Samuel G. Howe of Boston for first using the concept of early release from prison in the 1800s.
According to the USDOJ, a parole hearing determines if the justice system should release an inmate from prison to parole via community supervision for the remainder of the sentence.
On the federal level, a hearing examiner of the United States Parole Commission (USPC) conducts the hearing. Meanwhile, a USPC commissioner determines if the national judicial system should grant the inmate parole.
Paroles on the state level involve the department of corrections like New York’s Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DCCS).
In a state parole hearing, state officials comprise a panel known as the board of parole or parole board, which interviews the offender.
In most states, a governor or an executive committee selects the board members, who may be required to meet particular qualifications and requirements.
The primary objective of the interview is to obtain information from and about the offender that the commission cannot access. This information helps form the basis for parole and determines the prisoner’s parole status.
The board of parole has discretionary authority to grant the release of incarcerated individuals. Additionally, the independent body is responsible for determining the parole and requirements of the conditional discharge.
When Will a Correctional Facility Release a Prisoner After the Parole Board Grants Their Parole?
A parole board may either grant or deny an offender’s parole application. If the parole board approves the parole, the prison releases the inmate on their parole eligibility date (PED).
Meanwhile, suppose the PED has passed due to the parole board rejecting their initial application. The judicial system should release them at the earliest opportunity.
How Does an Individual Apply for Parole?
Certain factors disqualify inmates from applying for parole, including offenders serving a life sentence without parole.
Meanwhile, here are the steps an offender can take to apply for parole:
- Offenders must fill out and sign an application that the case manager has supplied. The responsibilities of case managers include preparing and distributing documents for court proceedings.
- Nearly every offender who wishes a judicial system to consider them for pardon must complete a parole application. The exception includes inmates who committed a crime under juvenile delinquency.
However, in some cases, an offender may wish to forgo applying for parole. Possible reasons include a prison detainee considering themselves undeserving of parole due to remorse.
However, some judicial experts recommend that inmates unconditionally apply for parole when the judicial system permits it.
A critical benefit of parole and parole hearings is providing a chance for the judicial system to add positive information to the inmate’s record. However, an inmate typically has few such opportunities.
How Does a Parole Commission Notify Inmates of Hearings?
A case manager informs the offender when the parole commission has scheduled their hearing. The initial hearing typically takes place within a few months after the individual has arrived at the institution.
The exception to the rule is if the offender is serving a minimum of ten years. In that case, the parole commission schedules the initial hearing six months before completing the ten-year term.
Deciding Factors in a Parole Board Granting Parole
Suppose you become eligible for parole. In that case, a particular parole board must determine whether you are sufficiently rehabilitated for re-entry into society and create no risk to public safety.
Factors Based on Observational Evidence
Parole board members consider several factors before determining whether to grant or refuse parole to an offender. Here are four of some of the most critical elements based on a University of Pennsylvania review:
A parole board weighs good behavior heavily when reviewing a parole application. Having good behavior is also a crucial factor related to the conditions for early release. Parole boards periodically evaluate inmates using different classifications.
Crime Severity and Incarceration Length
The parole board also considers the severity of the inmate’s crime and the sentence length served.
For instance, a prisoner who committed a heinous crime may be less likely to be paroled. At the same time, an inmate that has served dozens of years may be more likely to be granted early release.
In addition, the parole board may also consider the inmate’s criminal history. For instance, the board may consider whether the inmate is a first-time offender or a repeat offender.
The board will likely consider the parole applicant’s mental health. For example, experts can evaluate the inmate’s mental stability, which is crucial before re-entering public life.
A crime’s effects on a victim may be long-term. Since victims have a unique and personal perspective regarding a criminal case, the parole boards may request victims’ input before deciding whether to grant or deny a parole application. This process helps address the victims’ needs and concerns.
Victims can make an impact statement, allowing them to express their thoughts about convicted individuals at court trials and parole hearings.
Other Factors Parole Boards Often Consider
Other factors that parole boards consider include:
- Motivation for committing the crime
- Parole recommendations by the sentencing judge (if any)
- Whether the inmate violated any prison rules and regulations
- Efforts toward rehabilitation (treatment, mentoring, and degrees earned)
- Signs of remorse
- Lack of insight
- History of violence
- Psychological evaluations
- The chance the inmate will integrate into society (job, family, and community support)
A 2005 study reported that less than half of inmates complete their parole. Hence, parole boards consider numerous factors before determining whether they should grant parole to an inmate.
When Does a Parole Board Make a Decision Regarding Parole?
A hearing examiner inspects an inmate’s case file before the parole hearing. After the hearing, they make a recommendation related to parole. In most cases, the parole board directly informs the offender of the proposal.
Suppose the examiner does not make a parole recommendation. They refer the case to the parole commission’s office for additional review.
Since the hearing’s recommendations are tentative, another examiner review is necessary before the parole board makes a final decision.
Typically, the offender receives a “notice of action” within a month that advises them of the parole board’s official decision.
When the Prisoner Receives the Parole Board’s Decision
A parole commission may need up to six months to complete the entire processing of an inmate’s parole application. That time frame includes the time required by the parole board to make its decision.
After the parole board makes its decision, it typically notifies the prisoner within a few days. They should receive a written decision and the reasons for the board’s decision.
Conditions and Specific Conditions of Parole
An inmate must adhere to particular general requirements of parole and special requirements related to the specific offense or criminal history.
The conditions that parolees must adhere to differ for various states. The general conditions for parolees may include:
- Note that a police officer or parole agent may search you or your property without securing a search warrant.
- Ensure to obtain permission to leave the state.
- Remember that if parole officers find you outside of the state, you waive extradition. Extradition is a requesting state’s removal of a person from a requested state for criminal prosecution or punishment.
- Report to a parole agent one day following your release from a correctional facility, including prisons and jails.
- Inform your parole agent about your work and residence addresses (for example, halfway house).
- Report your new residence address to the parole agent before moving.
- Report within three days of any job changes.
- Adhere to your parole agent’s verbal and written instructions.
- Note that you cannot leave the state without requesting and receiving a travel pass.
- Make sure to request and receive a travel pass if you plan to leave the country for over a minimum number of days.
- Inform the parole agent if law enforcement arrests you or gives you a driving ticket.
- Note that you may not possess or be around any firearms or bullets.
Prisoners under community supervision may commit a parole violation based on the conditions mentioned above. A revocation hearing determines if a prisoner has violated the conditions of release.
Furthermore, the judicial system may incarcerate them without bail on a parole detainer. A detainer is a particular request that a criminal justice agency files to hold a prisoner.
Specific parole conditions may include:
- No contact with a victim of the crime or the victim’s family members. Victims can report violations through victims services.
- Not coming within a certain distance of the victim’s residence or their place of employment.
- Restriction on using the internet.
- Not associating with gang members.
How Long a Parolee Must Remain Under Supervision Following Their Release
Parolees remain under the parole commission’s jurisdiction and the probation officer’s supervision until the sentence’s expiration date. That is for offenses committed before April 11, 1987.
The exception is if the parole commission terminates supervision beforehand, the inmate receives a certificate of early termination.
Suppose the parole commission mandatorily releases the prisoner rather than paroling them. In that case, supervision ends 80 days before the maximum expiration date.
What Happens if the Parole Board Does Not Grant Parole to Inmates
Approximately half of U.S. states’ parole boards have the authority to grant early release of prisoners. However, parole boards rarely release inmates on parole. That trend is true even if the state does not consider them a threat to public safety.
A 2011 study by Stanford University’s Criminal Justice Center examined California prisoners sentenced to life with the possibility of parole.
At that time, one-fifth of California’s prisoners were “lifers” with the possibility of parole. The researchers reported that such prisoners had an 18% chance of parole through the Board of Parole Hearings.
Suppose the parole commission refuses parole in a “knock-back.” In this case, the prisoner should converse with their solicitor to determine if they can challenge any grounds in the refusal.
If they cannot challenge the decision, the prisoner typically must wait one year before they may apply again.
Parole applications can only challenge the parole refusal if:
- Information was missing from the dossier (collection of documents)
- The reasons provided for the refusal were insufficient
In this case, the challenger has the “burden of proof” to support their claims that parole is warranted. They cannot challenge the refusal because they disagree with it.
Is It Possible to Appeal the Parole Decision?
On the federal level, inmates may file an appeal within 30 days of the date included on the notice of action. They must file it with the National Appeals Board (NAB). You can secure a copy of the appeal form from case managers.
After the NAB receives the appeal, it may take one of the following actions based on the parole commission’s decision:
Another action they may take is to order a new hearing. The NAB’s decision is final.
If a parole decision granting or denying parole involves the District of Columbia’s (D.C.) code sentencing prisoners, inmates may not appeal to the parole commission. Instead, offenders can appeal official decisions revoking parole or supervised release.
When Offenders Get Out if a Parole Board Does Not Grant Parole Anytime During Their Sentence
Mandatory releases release an offender unless they have forfeited all statutory good time.
According to Cornell University, statutory good time is a credit to a sentence. It is deducted from a sentence or sentences, calculated, and credited when the judicial system computes the sentence.
An institution’s official calculates the mandatory release date based on:
- The amount of statutory good time an offender is entitled to
- The amount of good time that the inmate earns
The parolee should create a parole plan as if they were going out on parole. Meanwhile, a probation officer supervises a releasee like they were on parole. This process continues until 180 days before the sentence’s expiration date.
However, a requirement is the releasee must not violate the conditions of early release. On the other hand, the parole commission holds jurisdiction over the sentence’s original full term date.
Suppose the parole commission refuses the offender’s parole application and the parolee also has fewer than 180 days remaining on a sentence when released. In that case, the prison releases the inmate without supervision.
Meanwhile, if a prisoner is serving a special parole term, parole supervision terminates on the full term date, making the 180-day date inapplicable.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. Is parole the same process as probation?
Probation is the period of community supervision a court imposes as an alternative to imprisonment.
On the other hand, parole is a prisoner’s release of a prisoner to community supervision after the individual has completed a part of their sentence in an institution.
2. Does the judge or other court officials make a recommendation to the parole commission regarding parole?
Particular individuals can make recommendations regarding parole, including:
- The judge who sentences the criminal offender
- The Assistant U.S. Attorney prosecuting the case
- The defense attorney
Typically, such parties submit parole recommendations to the parole commission before the first parole hearing. They also become part of the material that the parole commission considers.
The judge, defense attorney, and Assistant U.S. Attorney must use particular forms when making parole recommendations.
3. Will the parole board grant parole if there is an unpaid committed fine?
If an offender is to “stand committed” (serve time) for a fine, they must pay it before the parole commission can take action on the sentence’s “time portion.”
Paying a fine is the usual way offenders handle it. They can take an “indigent prisoner’s oath” if the prisoner can prove they possess no funds or assets. A case manager can help apply to take this oath.
If an offender cannot pay the fine or quality for the oath, the warden or magistrate may determine the offender needs all the money or assets to support dependents.
In some situations, the offender can pay a portion of the fine. The warden or magistrate may determine the prisoner needs the remainder of the assets to support dependents.
However, in this case, the offender has a civil requirement to pay the fine later.
Suppose the offender has sufficient funds or assets to pay the commitment fine but does not take that action. In that case, the parole commission will not parole the offender.
4. Are reasons supplied if the parole board denies parole?
Yes, at the hearing date, the hearing examiner discusses the recommendation with the prisoner. The notice of action will include the reasons for the decision.
5. If the parole board denies parole at the initial hearing, will the parole commission give the offender another hearing?
According to the law, the parole board grants the offender another hearing. It occurs 18 months after the time of their last hearing if the sentence is under seven years.
If the sentence is at least seven years, the judicial system schedules the next hearing 24 months after the last hearing.
The judicial system may delay the statutory interim hearing until the docket preceding eligibility. A docket is a list of cases or a calendar for trials or individuals having pending cases.
That action occurs if over 18 or 24 months exist between the initial hearing and the eligibility date.
6. What type of release plan must be in order?
A release plan should typically include an ideal proposed residence and a validated offer of employment.
A parole advisor is only warranted if the probation commission or the U.S. probation officer states that an offender should obtain one.
Some exceptions exist. For instance, sometimes a definite job is required or possible.
The parole commission always considers an individual’s situation. It may waive standard requirements if it believes it is warranted.
Meanwhile, the inmate may need to meet special requirements before release.
Additional Information on Federal and State Parole
The general public can easily access records on legitimate websites. Additional information is available on these sites related to inmates in state or federal correctional facilities.
You can also visit the various official homepages of U.S. states’ parole commissions.
1. Probation and Parole in the United States, 2020
2. Parole hearings
3. The parole process
4. Maryland Parole Commission FAQs Index – MD Department of Justice
5. Does parole supervision work?
7. Frequently asked questions
8. When can a prisoner apply for parole?
9. Statutory good time
10. Revocation hearing procedure
11. Probation and Parole Systems Marked by High Stakes, Missed Opportunities
12. Stanford Criminal Justice Center Issues First Major Study of California Prisoners Serving Life Sentences with Possibility of Parole
13. What Factors Affect Parole: A Review of Empirical Research