One in 66 American adult residents were under community supervision by the year-end of 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics.
Parole is a type of community supervision in which an offender is conditionally released from a correctional institution and serves part of their sentence outside prison walls.
If your loved one, friend, or colleague is in jail, and you want a favorable decision from the board to secure their release, work with a parole attorney to represent you in court.
Before you consult legal expertise, you must learn about your loved one’s parole eligibility.
LookUpInmate.org is a one-stop inmate lookup site that does not only connect you to over 7,000 correction facilities across America. You can access inmate records through our site, including information about sentence status and degree of offense.
Read on if you want an overview of the U.S. parole system and how a criminal defense attorney can help you along the way.
U.S. Parole Attorney: What Does a Parole Attorney Do in the U.S.?
Parole attorneys provide legal assistance that inmates need to get released on parole. These lawyers can guide and advocate for protecting their client’s constitutional rights throughout the parole process.
U.S. Parole Lawyers Represent Offenders Before the Parole Board to Obtain a Positive Vote for Parole
The parole board—officially called the Parole Commission—decides if an inmate is eligible for parole.
It sets an eligibility date after a hearing to discuss whether an inmate can be a candidate for parole. Inmates usually serve their minimum jail terms before becoming eligible for parole.
Do You Need a Parole Attorney?
There are advantages to having a private criminal defense lawyer assist you in securing your parole request. Let us take a look at some of the ways their services can help you.
- Greater accessibility
Court-appointed lawyers typically handle many cases. While some private law offices accept as many clients as possible, some take a few or only one case at a time.
As a result, you have more access to a private attorney with staff to support clients when you cannot reach them through phone or digital means.
- More engagement
Unlike public defenders, hired practitioners can devote time explaining the parole process. They can tell you what questions to expect from the parole board and how to answer them.
These private lawyers can also help gather expert witnesses and prepare a parole packet. This “packet” refers to the collection of documents that inmates or their kin submit to the parole board to support the person’s release.
Moreover, the packet also includes a parole plan. This plan lists the community resources that will make an inmate suitable for parole, such as housing, job or training-for-work opportunities, and substance abuse or mental health treatment.
What Is Parole in the Court of Law?
Being released on parole refers to the conditional release of an inmate from prison before they complete their full sentence. A parolee comes under the supervision of public officials in the community, particularly a parole officer.
The court can appoint an attorney to help inmates with parole applications. But the prisoner’s loved ones can also opt to get the services of a private parole attorney to assist with the legal proceedings.
While hiring a lawyer is not required, seeking legal services can help you navigate the necessary paperwork. These legal experts can also help you prepare compelling arguments and file an appeal if the board denies the parole request.
Parole Is a Privilege, Not a Right
The law only grants parole eligibility when inmates meet specific terms, one of which includes the completion of a third of their prison terms.
Another factor affecting the parole eligibility date—or the earliest time an inmate can go on parole—is the minimum prison service that the court imposes.
These three factors also influence the board’s decision:
- The inmate has shown substantial compliance with prison rules
- The decision to release will not downplay the person’s crime or encourage others to commit the same offense
- The inmate’s release is not a potential risk to the public’s safety
Timeline of Parole
The U.S. parole process follows this procedure:
Inmates must fill out and sign a parole application form, which they can get from case managers. It is also the case manager who informs inmates about their first parole hearing date, the schedule of which generally happens a few months after they enter prison.
But for those with jail terms of 10 years and beyond, the initial hearing is six months before one completes the 10-year term.
- Parole hearing
During the parole hearing, a parole examiner reviews the case file and makes a recommendation. But it can take several hearings before the parole board finally decides to grant an inmate parole eligibility.
- Notice of action
The Commission usually takes 21 days to issue a “Notice of Action” that informs inmates about its official decision.
If the board denies the parole application, inmates may appeal for up to 30 days after receiving the Notice of Action.
They can send their appeals to the National Appeals Board (NAB), which can modify, reverse, or affirm the Commission’s decision and order a new hearing.
- Supervised release
The parole board holds a pre-release record review to ensure that the inmate has met the terms necessary for release.
Once released on parole, inmates should report to a U.S. parole officer and comply with all parole conditions.
Important U.S. Parole Information
Parole and Revocation Hearings in the U.S. – What to Expect
Inmates Can View Some of the Parole Hearing Files
After getting the Notice of Hearing, inmates can request the case manager for assistance in viewing some of the documents that will be part of the parole review.
Inmates Speak Up, Get Briefed on Review Process
Inmates can speak during the hearing and tell authorities why they believe they should approve their parole request.
Discussions will also include:
- Details of the inmate’s offense
- Past crime history
- Guidelines that the parole board uses to determine parole suitability
- Inmates’ behavior and activities at the correctional facility
- Details of the release plan, including foreseeable problems depending on any life difficulties or situations that the inmate faced before imprisonment
Parole Board Will Examine Inmates’ Details
When reviewing a case file, the parole board refers to the so-called salient factor scoring system to help them decide whether an inmate is suitable for parole:
- Past criminal convictions
- If past offenses included bank checks or car theft
- Past commitments or prison terms
- If the inmate has previous probation or parole violations
- Age during the first imprisonment
- History of opiate dependence
- Officially employed or attended school full-time in his community for at least six months in the past two years
Violations May Lead to Parole Revocation
When parolees violate their parole terms, the board can revoke their parole status.
Parolees will get a notice of the violation that they reportedly committed before authorities schedule a preliminary revocation hearing. In the final hearing, the board decides whether or not to revoke the parole.
Among the most common violations are:
- Committing and getting arrested for a new offense
- Associating with known criminals
- Not reporting to the parole officer
- Breaking one’s curfew
- Failing a drug test
- Leaving the city or state without the parole officer’s permission
- Inability to find and keep a job
- Using or selling drugs
Certain Parole Restrictions in the U.S.
The release certificate or Notice of Action will indicate the conditions that inmates must meet once granted parole. Besides regularly meeting one’s parole officer, parolees may have to undergo rehabilitation for drug or alcohol abuse. They also cannot own firearms and ammunition. Parolees should also avoid contact with past crime associates.
Parolees will be arrested and can go back to prison for breaking the conditions of their parole. The supervising officer reports all violations to the board, which then decides to either issue an arrest warrant or summon the parolee to a revocation hearing.
Legal Services to Help Parole Aspirants in the U.S.
In states like Texas, getting the services of a parole attorney with years of experience in parole law can provide legal representation tailored to your or your loved one’s particular case. Besides preparing the parole packet and strategic arguments, these lawyers can also offer the following:
- Lead voter meeting
Parole attorneys can meet some of the state’s parole board members who will take part in voting for an inmate’s parole eligibility. Doing so allows the lawyers to discover if the board has any concerns about the inmate’s case.
- Representation during revocation hearings
An attorney can also provide legal support during parole revocation hearings by investigating the circumstances that prompted it. They can challenge the allegations and help you prepare to face the board so you will not have to return to prison.
Pardon Process in the U.S.
Under the U.S. Constitution, the president can grant pardons to inmates with federal convictions or offenses violating federal laws or affecting multiple states.
The most common federal offenses include:
- Drug possession and trafficking
- Unlawful firearms possession and transportation
- Fraud, theft, embezzlement
- Child pornography
- Sexual abuse
- Money laundering
Inmates submit a filled-out and notarized application form available at the Pardon Attorney’s office. The petition should include three notarized character affidavits as support documents.
The evaluation of one’s petition does not include any hearing. But the Federal Bureau of Investigation may conduct a background investigation on one’s post-conviction life as part of the process.
Once the Pardon Attorney’s office has collected information and comments from other agencies, it submits a recommendation to the office of the Deputy Attorney General (DAG). The DAG office then submits another recommendation that goes to the White House.
After the president decides on the petition, the Pardon Attorney sends the inmate about the outcome. Pardons are irreversible.
1. How much does a parole lawyer cost in the U.S.?
Criminal defense lawyers in the U.S. can charge hourly fees ranging from $150 to $700 per hour. So the total legal bills can be between $10,000 to $15,000.
Texas parole attorneys may charge from $3,500 to $6,000 when legally representing you or your loved one before the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.
Many law firms offer services without charge for your initial meeting. To check your options, input your location (for example, Austin or Houston) online, followed by the words “free consultation” or “free case evaluation.”
2. Can you be released on parole early in the U.S.?
Yes. Inmates from Texas and other parts of the United States can submit an application to the parole board explaining their suitability for early release. Possible reasons include:
- Good behavior
- Lack of any disciplinary infractions while in prison
- Participation in work programs
In most cases, inmates must serve at least a third of their sentence, but terms may vary depending on the state.
3. What is the function of the State Board of Pardons and Paroles?
The State Board of Pardons and Paroles is the state body with authority to grant and revoke paroles and make parole policies and procedures. It decides which inmates are eligible for release using research-based guidelines.
4. Who is eligible for parole?
The board typically grants parole eligibility to inmates who have completed one-third of their prison terms. The minimum requirement for those on life sentences or over 30 years is a 10-year prison service.
However, requirements can vary from one state to another. The board considers the type of offense committed, the number of convictions on one’s record, the time between convictions, and good behavior.
5. What cases are not eligible for parole?
The parole board generally does not grant parole to offenders of first-degree murder, rape, kidnapping, drug trafficking, or arson.
Also, inmates sentenced to federal prison after November 1, 1987, are no longer eligible for parole under the Sentencing Reform Act. But they serve a term of mandatory supervised release after leaving prison.
6. What happens at a parole hearing?
During the parole hearing, the parole board gives inmates a chance to express their feelings about the original offense for which they went to prison.
They can also express why they feel they should be granted parole by presenting evidence showing remorse for past actions.
7. Can I appeal a parole decision?
Yes. Inmates can appeal the decision if the board denies their parole application. They should send the appeal to the NAB 30 days after receipt of the parole board’s decision.
8. Can any of my family members attend my parole hearing?
No. The law allows only the victims, their immediate relatives, or their legal representatives to attend the hearing in person or via video conference.
The inmates’ loved ones can show their support through the reference letters that their hired lawyer will include in the parole packet.
9. Will my loved one be able to attend the parole hearing establishing the TPM?
TPM stands for the inmates’ tentative parole month, which is the time the parole board will complete a review of their case and set a parole release date.
Unfortunately, the law prohibits the attendance of the inmates’ relatives or friends at any of the parole hearings.
10. Can parole attorneys guarantee that the parole decision will be successful?
Hiring parole attorneys can highly improve—but does not guarantee—a favorable vote in favor of one’s parole application.
The lawyers’ familiarity with parole law and proceedings will allow them to address what the parole board is looking for in considering their client’s parole eligibility.
11. How does the PIC points system work?
Some states like Georgia have a performance incentive credits (PIC) system as part of their reentry program plan.
Inmates can earn points to hasten their TPM through good conduct and completion of vocational, work, educational, or treatment programs.
12. My loved one received a letter from the board stating my parole eligibility date. What should my loved one do with the letter?
Your loved ones should expect the parole board to release you on parole on your eligibility date or sometime after.
They can use the information when contacting the prison facility by phone or verifying your release status online.
Suppose you are at a prison in the state of Texas. In that case, your loved ones can go to the inmate information search page of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) website.
This page shows an inmates’ release date after site visitors enter the inmate’s information details.
- Probation and Parole in the United States, 2020
- Community Corrections (Probation and Parole)
- United States Parole Commission
- Parole hearings
- Parole packets
- How to Write Parole Packets, pages 5 and 9
- U.S. Parole Commission Frequently Asked Questions
- Notice of Hearing-Parole Application
- How Parole Works
- Salient Factor Score – A Nontechnical Overview
- Office of the Pardon Attorney Frequently Asked Questions
- 2021 Annual Report And Sourcebook Of Federal Sentencing Statistics
- Petition for Pardon After Completion of Sentence
- 28 CFR § 2.2 – Eligibility for parole; adult sentences.
- Persons under community supervision in the federal system
- Performance Incentive Credit
- Inmate information search