In 2020, an estimated 3,890,400 adults in the United States were on community supervision, which includes parolees. This finding suggests that understanding parole is a significant task for many.
If you are an inmate or you have an incarcerated family member, it is vital to know the definition and processes of parole, as it affects how incarcerated individuals must behave and their prison term can affect them.
What Is Parole?
Parole is the conditional release of inmates from correctional facilities before their release dates. This early release enables prisoners to return to the community to serve the rest of the court-imposed penalty under the oversight of a parole officer.
What Does It Mean When Someone Is on Parole?
Specific conditions for parolees (individuals who have received parole from the parole board) may include:
- Submitting to parole supervision by a parole authority
- Transferring to a place of residence after getting permission from a branch of the Department of Corrections
- Regularly reporting to a particular public official or a law enforcement officer
- Maintaining a steady job
- Following the law and other special conditions
How Does Parole Work?
Listed below are several pieces of information regarding how parole works.
Here are a few of the crucial definitions for parole considerations:
- Parole board: The board members of this committee are primarily responsible for facilitating parole hearings, assessing parole violation reports, determining an inmate’s parole eligibility, and other parole decision-making processes.
In the United States (U.S.) criminal justice system, the U.S. Parole Commission presides over parole grants and revocations for inmates under its jurisdiction.
- Parolees: This term refers to the individuals who have received parole grants from the parole board.
- Parole officers: These officials have responsibilities linked with managing a criminal’s parole, such as assisting with re-entry into society and supervising parolee activities to ensure the inmate’s compliance with the conditions of parole.
- Parole conditions: These constraints govern the parole process. Moreover, these guidelines serve as a basis for parole boards to issue just and fair rulings regarding parole that do not conflict with public safety concerns.
In most cases, parole—also known as discretionary parole—allows an inmate to leave prison early and serve a proportion of the remaining sentence under parole monitoring.
However, “mandatory parole” comes after an inmate has served the court-determined minimum sentence.
Parole Is Not a Right
In the United States, inmates do not have the right to parole. Instead, parole is a privilege that a parole authority can grant or deny based on legal considerations.
Who Can Apply for Parole?
Individuals may apply for parole depending on their region and the nature of their criminal sentences.
For example, in Hawaii, individuals serving determinate (mandatory minimum) or “life without the possibility of parole” sentences are not eligible for parole.
Eligibility for Parole
The type of sentence a criminal offender receives determines whether they are eligible for parole.
Moreover, the “parole eligibility date” is the earliest the offender can receive parole. This condition indicates that the Parole Commission grants paroles and sets dates of release only on or after the “eligibility” date.
Furthermore, many states limit parole to individuals who have completed a specific portion of their sentence and have received convictions for specific criminal offenses.
For instance, offenders convicted of first-degree murder, rape, kidnapping, arson, or drug trafficking are almost always ineligible for parole.
In addition, the parole board considers additional conditions such as age, mental health, marital status, and prior criminal history.
Listed below are several court-imposed requirements parolees should follow:
- Not taking drugs or alcohol and not going to bars or clubs
- Visiting the probation or parole offices to report in person
- Avoiding contact with people who have criminal histories
- Not relocating or changing careers without permission
- When requested, submit to urinalysis or blood tests
- Not having access to firearms or other potentially lethal weapons
- Obtaining and sustaining consistent employment
- Not leaving the assigned city or state without authorization;
- Paying supervision fees
- Following all applicable state and local legislation
Other Possible Requirements
Other requirements for parolees may include:
- Participating in anger management classes
- Engaging in programs for transitional housing
- Observing court-ordered mental health therapy and counseling
- Keeping a distance from the victims of their crimes, especially in domestic violence, harassment, stalking, or assault cases.
- Registering as a sex offender; adherence to all sex offender regulations
- Following the court-ordered substance abuse treatment program
A parole hearing is a session to decide whether the jurisdiction should release particular convicts from prison to serve the remainder of their criminal sentence under parole monitoring in the community.
Moreover, a hearing examiner from the United States Parole Commission conducts the session.
Afterward, a commissioner of the U.S Parole Commission decides whether the inmate should receive parole upon examining the hearing examiner’s hearing records.
The conditional release of parolees may include the following conditions:
The parolee is frequently under the supervision of the prison agency through required visits with a parole officer.
Moreover, state parole services (typically a division of the Department of Corrections) may offer transitional assistance customized to the parolee’s needs, such as lodging in a halfway house or intensive mental health therapy.
Several supervision strategies may involve a prison agency:
- Aligning supervision assets with the risks
- Prioritizing treatment and surveillance
- Supervising parolees in their communities
- Focusing on and communicating rules and conditions that parolees can observe realistically and parole officers can enforce practically
- Instilling swift, reliable, and consistent responses to failures
- Introducing various incentives to generate and reward successes
Violation of parole is failing to adhere to its conditions. A violation could be substantive, such as committing a new crime, or technical, such as failing to obtain permission from the parole officer to leave the state or country before departing town.
Types of Violation
Substantive violations may include:
- Domestic abuse
- Assault and battery
- Drug crime
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
Although technical violations are not as weighty as substantive violations, the former can still result in severe penalties.
Examples of technical offenses include:
- Testing positive for drugs
- Failure to adhere to a curfew
- Not observing a restraining order
- Failure to report to a parole officer on schedule
Parole Revocation or Violation Hearing
The revocation hearing aims to determine whether the parolee has violated the release conditions and, if so, whether the correctional institution should revoke or reinstate the individual’s discretionary or mandatory release.
Moreover, the individual may spend weeks, months, years, or the duration of the original term behind bars, depending on the rules of the jurisdiction.
Furthermore, prisoners may become eligible for a new parole hearing once they have served a specific time.
Humanitarian or Significant Public Benefit Parole for People Outside the United States
Individuals outside the United States may be eligible for parole if they have urgent humanitarian or significant public benefits needs.
The Need for a Sponsor
When deciding whether to exercise discretion and grant parole, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) examines whether the beneficiary will have a source of support while in the U.S.
Moreover, the agency may seek proof of financial support for the parolee from a sponsor.
The sponsors are the individuals who commit to financially supporting the applicants for the duration of their parole authorization period in the United States. Additionally, the petitioner and the financial sponsor may or may not be the same person or entity.
However, the beneficiaries may alternatively submit a Form I-134, Affidavit of Support, together with supporting financial data to show that they are financially self-sufficient.
Occasionally, a non-profit group or medical institution may sponsor a parole application. Consequently, if an organization’s employee cannot sign Form I-134, Affidavit of Support, the petitioner should include a letter from the organization agreeing to assist the beneficiary with the parole application.
Listed below are the possible parole procedures:
- Submitting a Parole Request
The applicant may read Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, and Form I-134, Affidavit of Support.
Afterward, the petitioner must send the following requirements to USCIS in Dallas:
- A completed and signed Form I-131 and Application for Travel Document
- A completed and signed Form I-134, Affidavit of Support
- All the required proof and supporting documentation found in the Guidance on Evidence for Certain Types of Humanitarian or Significant Public Benefit Parole Requests document
- Unless exempt from paying a filing charge, the filing fee, also called Form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver)
- USCIS Humanitarian Affairs Branch, or HAB, examines the Request for Jurisdiction and Urgency
HAB first examines applications for parole to see whether the agency has jurisdiction and, if it does, whether there is an urgent or time-sensitive basis for accelerated processing.
However, if the request falls outside of HAB’s jurisdiction, the committee may send the application to another USCIS division with jurisdiction.
- USCIS gives notification of the decision
- If confirmed: The agency may mail an authorization letter to the petitioner, the beneficiary, and any representative of record. This letter contains notice of the decision and the next steps for obtaining travel files.
- If denied: The jurisdiction may mail a notification to the applicant, the beneficiary, and any legal representative.
Travel for Parolees
A parole document issued outside the United States is only valid for one application for parole at the points of entry. This rule indicates that petitioners may receive parole termination if they leave the United States.
However, if the individual desires to travel abroad before returning to the United States as a parolee, they must make a separate application for advance parole on a new Form I-131 before departing.
Parole ends when the parole time expires, a jurisdiction revokes the conditional release, or the parolee leaves the country or obtains immigration status.
Moreover, although parole is only temporary, a recipient may need to stay in the United States longer than the granted parole period. Additionally, an individual may request re-parole from within the United States in such cases.
State laws on parole differ.
If you have any issues or want to know how the law relates to you, you may consider speaking with a knowledgeable lawyer. A skilled lawyer can explain the legislation and procedures in greater detail, including whether or not parole decisions are final.
Searching for online resources might also yield helpful knowledge. Information is available on several non-profit and government websites.
- What is the sentence for parole?
A parole board typically considers criminals for release only after they have served a specified amount of time in correctional facilities, such as one-third or half of the maximum sentence issued.
Some states require a person to serve the entire minimum term if a judge imposes one, while other states enable inmates to reduce their minimum sentence.
The sentences and conditions for inmates in jail are similar to those of individuals serving in prison.
- What are the three types of parole?
The three types of parole are:
- Discretionary: This kind of parole may entail a parole board’s decision to release specific inmates before completing their terms, with the rest of their sentences served under community supervision.
- Mandatory: This parole category may happen when inmates have completed their original term, minus any earned good time credit. Afterward, the correctional institution may release individuals to serve the remainder of their sentences in the community under supervision.
- Unconditional: Under this parole type, inmates may receive release orders only after serving their complete sentence in prison.
These inmates could not receive early release orders from a parole board in regions that retain discretionary parole. Moreover, these individuals could not earn good time credit, which may make them eligible for early release.
- Is parole the same as probation?
In criminal law, parole and probation are two different court-imposed criminal sentences.
For example, the primary distinction between parole and probation is that parole refers to a duration of community supervision following a particular amount of prison or jail time. On the other hand, probation typically functions as an alternative to incarceration.
Individuals frequently use the terms “parole” and “probation” interchangeably.
However, the contrasts between these jail or prison sentences are essential for defendants because the two phrases characterize how the inmates should behave and how their incarceration period may affect them.
1. Population Demographics
2. United States Parole Commission
3. What is a Parole Officer?
5. Parole Handbook https://dps.hawaii.gov/hpa/files/2020/11/HPA-Parole-Handbook_Revised_09_2020-1.pdf
6. Frequently Asked Questions
7. Parole and Probation
8. Probation and Parole Requirements
9. Parole Hearings
10. Does Parole Supervision Work?
11. 28 CFR § 2.103 – Revocation hearing procedure.
12. Humanitarian or Significant Public Benefit Parole for Individuals Outside the United States
13. What is the difference between Probation, Parole, and Supervised Release?