Over 800,000 people are currently serving parole in the United States. To give this number some perspective, the U.S. has more parolees than people living in North Dakota.
The massive number of parolees results from numerous parole board decisions based on reviews of eligible inmates. Through the parole board, the U.S. criminal justice system grants parole to promote the rehabilitation of convicted individuals.
Parole is conditional freedom for eligible inmates. It allows inmates to rebuild their lives through early prison release and supervision.
How can inmates be awarded or granted parole? How does the parole board determine whether a prisoner is eligible for parole? What factors does the parole board consider before granting release on parole?
This article discusses parole board decisions, including the factors determining a parole grant and the processes involved in parole granting.
Furthermore, this article includes a list of basic terminology when reading parole decisions or attending an actual parole hearing.
If you want more information about inmates and their release dates, visit LookUpInmate.org. Our website provides access to the criminal records of inmates imprisoned in over 7,000 correctional facilities nationwide.
- The Board of Parole is an appointed body that determines an inmate’s eligibility and suitability for parole.
- Parole is a privilege and not a right protected by the state. A person under parole is commonly called a parolee and is supervised by a parole officer.
- In some states, parole grants are based on the approval of the state governor. However, without the governor’s authority, the power rests on the parole board.
Board of Parole Hearings
The Board of Parole (BOP) is a group of commissioners appointed by the state government to handle parole requests from the state’s prison population.
In California and other states, the appointed members are typically subject to confirmation by the Senate.
The parole board conducts parole suitability hearings and nonviolent offender parole reviews for inmates under the state’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation jurisdiction.
The primary duty of the Board of Parole is to determine parole eligibility. The board also sets the conditions for parole release and can revoke grants because of a violation.
In California, the duties of a parole board include the following:
- Conduct medical parole hearings.
- Conduct review hearings for offenders with mental health disorders.
- Review records of inmates classified as sexually violent predators.
- Investigate parole requests, including reprieves and commutations of sentence.
- Process transfer requests for foreign prisoners.
Another crucial duty of a parole board is to function as the decision-making committee over parole violators with offenses that may lead to parole revocation.
The hearing date for reviews depends on the state’s parole board. In California, the board conducts a commissioner’s meeting once a month. Its meeting agenda may be published as early as 10 days before the executive board meeting.
What Are the Four Most Important Factors Parole Boards Consider Before Granting Release on Parole?
When people talk about parole, they mainly focus on the day the prisoner gets released. However, many need to know that getting a parole grant involves tedious reviews by the parole board.
If you check state statutes about parole, you’ll notice that each state has different eligibility factors. However, despite the subtle differences, there are fundamental factors on which states base their assessment and determination of parole eligibility.
The University of Pennsylvania, School of Social Policy and Practice, has reviewed numerous parole decisions and has pinpointed four different factors on which parole determinations are based.
- Institutional behavior: Studies on different parole decisions show that one crucial factor for granting is the inmate’s conduct while in prison.
- Crime severity, history, and sentence length: Studies show that nonviolent crimes tend to get parole grants. In contrast, crimes like sexual assaults typically get denied.
- Mental illness: Prisoners diagnosed with mental disorders are less likely to receive a parole grant. The board determines that a mentally impaired individual may not respond well to counseling programs included in parole programs.
- Victim input: Another factor determining parole grants is the feedback from the victim or the community. Studies show that the presence of a victim’s opposition to an inmate’s parole may lead to a denial.
How Long Does a Parole Board Take to Make a Decision?
Parole decisions don’t happen overnight. The time it takes for a parole board to decide differs depending on the state and the offender’s case.
In Texas, the decision is typically made two weeks after receiving the file. However, the decision will take longer if the case requires a special vote or a parole member wants to meet the offender in person.
After the hearings, the offender gets notified of the official decision of the board. The notification usually arrives about 21 days after the hearing, though it may take longer in some states.
As you can see, granting parole to an offender is a delicate responsibility for each parole board member.
Accidentally letting out a criminal not qualified for a parole grant is a nightmare the board doesn’t want to happen. So, every case is carefully scrutinized and reviewed.
How Long After a Parole Hearing Is an Inmate Released in the U.S.?
It usually takes time before an inmate is released after the board grants parole. The length of time depends on the state and the crime committed by the offender.
Once the board grants parole, the prisoner is released.
For example, the board’s decision in California becomes final within 120 days after the parole hearing. Afterward, the decision is sent to the board’s legal division and the state governor for final review.
After the governor approves the parole grant, the inmate goes to parole planning in preparation for release.
There are situations where the offender committed crimes in prison and got sentenced. In that case, the offender must serve the sentence before the parole grant takes effect.
Commission Hearing and Review Decisions
Commission hearings play a crucial part in the parole grant process. Different states have their policies about hearing procedures. However, all policies are guided by the fundamental objective of accurately determining whether an offender is worthy of parole.
In California, the parole board conducts regular hearings to determine parole eligibility. Anyone can check the hearing schedules as the board posts these details online.
Other states have regular hearing schedules to accommodate the number of inmates requesting parole or have reached parole eligibility.
After a parole hearing, the board publishes the results to the public. In some states, it may take up to five days before the hearing results become available.
These hearing results are published in different ways depending on the state.
For example, in California, the parole board publishes weekly and monthly hearing results on its website. You can get information about the offender’s county of commitment, the date of the hearing, the hearing type, and the results.
Meanwhile, in Idaho, the state’s parole board publishes its decision five business days after the last hearing through a Notice of Action.
Hearing Result Terminology
When reading board hearing results, you may encounter certain terminology unfamiliar to lay people.
Here is a short list of typical terms you might encounter, including their meaning:
- Grant: The parole board approved the offender’s request. As mentioned above, the parole granting process is tedious and involves many reviews. A grant proves that the parolee is eligible for this privilege and has proven worthy of this “act of grace” from the state.
- Deny: The parole board denied the offender’s parole request. Usually, the board determines that the offender is not suitable for parole.
The following factors are used in Utah to determine suitability:
- The inmate will not endanger the community’s public safety upon release.
- The inmate doesn’t have a history of serious crimes.
- The inmate has shown recovery from substance abuse.
- The inmate has no prior offenses.
- The inmate has paid restitution to victims when required.
- The inmate has served a considerable part of their sentence.
- The inmate doesn’t show signs of committing the same crime after release (recidivism).
- The inmate didn’t use any weapon to commit a crime.
- The inmate’s offense is not severe.
- The sentencing court didn’t indicate that the offender couldn’t be paroled. An example of this court sentence is a life sentence without possible parole.
- The victim is not highly vulnerable and deeply affected by the offender’s crime.
- Continue: The parole board started a hearing, but the process can’t be completed due to specific reasons experienced by the board. Usually, the board sets a new schedule to continue and complete the hearing.
- Canceled: A hearing cancellation happens when the parole board deems it no longer necessary for the hearings to go forward or be rescheduled.
For example, a hearing cancellation may happen if the inmate dies or a court order releases them. In both situations, the board has no reason to continue or postpone because there won’t be any hearings afterward.
1. Split: A split decision happens when the parole board is equally divided on whether to grant parole.
Most of the time, the contention hinges on the parolee’s suitability and the length of the denial period for those found unsuitable.
2. Postpone: There are instances where the board may request a hearing postponement because of a pressing valid reason.
Reasons for postponement vary, but the most common are the following:
- One or more members of the hearing panel are unavailable.
- Some documents and notices need to be included or timely.
- There was a lack of required accommodation for an inmate’s disability during a parole hearing.
- The inmate has an illness.
- There are disasters and prison emergencies.
Aside from these reasons, the inmate may also request a postponement to resolve parole eligibility issues. However, postponement request from inmates is only approved if there’s a good cause.
A factor that determines good cause is if the inmate has no way of knowing about the need for the hearing postponement before the request was made.
- Waive: Inmates can waive their parole rights for one to five years if they’ve submitted a request at least 45 calendar days before the hearing. Once the waiver is approved, the board notifies the victims, their families, and the district attorney’s office.
- Stip or Stipulation: The board and the inmate can go into an agreement or stipulation where they both agree not to continue with the parole hearing due to unsuitability.
When a stip happens, the inmate admits or agrees that they are unsuitable for parole and requests that the board not conduct any parole hearing.
The inmate may offer a period of 3, 5, 7, 10, or 15 years of being unsuitable for parole. However, the inmate’s request will go through the district attorney’s office and to the victim and their families, who will decide whether to accept or reject the offer.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. Using this lookup function, what information must you have to find an incarcerated individual?
States provide online lookup functions where you can search for inmates. Incarceration information is considered a public record and can be accessed and retrieved by anyone.
LookUpInmate.org provides a one-stop place to get all the information you need from more than 7,000 correctional facilities nationwide. You can use our website to search for criminal records of incarcerated individuals, including their arrest data and estimated release date.
All you need to access this information are the inmate’s name, their identification number provided by the Department of Corrections (DOC), or the facility they’re currently in.
2. Who is listed here?
The State Department of Corrections manages a website with a lookup function where people can quickly search for a particular inmate.
However, some parole board websites list only inmates scheduled to appear in the next six months, except youth offenders for adjudication. Note that some parole board websites may have other parameters to sort out inmates to be listed.
3. What about youthful offenders?
Some states, like New York, have laws protecting the confidentiality of youth offender records from the public. This type of policy aims to help the youth avoid the long-term effects of having a criminal record.
4. What if you are a crime victim?
Victims can be heard during parole board hearings, and their input is considered when determining whether the offender is granted parole. Also, victims receive notifications of any parole board decisions once available.
1. Probation and parole
2. What Is Parole? How Does Parole Work?
3. U.S. Department of Justice National Institute of Corrections Handbook for New Parole Board Members (Second Edition)
4. Board of Parole Hearings
5. Role of the Board of Parole
6. What Factors Affect Parole: A Review of Empirical Research
7. What to Expect After a Parole Suitability Hearing
8. Parole Suitability Hearing Results