Parole was developed to address prison overcrowding and excessive incarceration in the United States. This system allows for the early release of inmates from prison who have demonstrated their ability to reintegrate into society.
An inmate’s parole status is decided by a panel of three or more members who examine statutory factors. They will also interview the offender.
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The Inmate’s Case
A number of factors determine whether a parole board will release you. The panel will consider your behavior in prison and whether you have taken advantage of the rehabilitative programs, treatment programs and educational/vocational opportunities that are available to you. The panel will also weigh the impact that your crime has had on victims, including their emotional suffering.
If you have a history of poor institutional adjustment or trouble following rules, the parole board may be reluctant to release you on parole. This is especially true if you have committed multiple violent crimes against citizens.
Similarly, the board may be hesitant to release you on parole if you have a history of drug or alcohol abuse or a mental health issue. Research suggests that these issues affect your ability to function in society and desist from further criminal activities upon release.
The Offender’s Record
Traditionally, the panel’s decision has been based on factors such as the severity of an offender’s crimes and the nature and extent of their criminal histories, as well as his or her institutional behaviour during his or her time in prison. Moreover, the offender’s record on previous periods of parole or probation is also an important factor.
It is also known that the panel’s decision is influenced by input from victims, who may choose to submit an impact statement and participate in the hearings. Lastly, the panel’s decision is often based on the advice of a specialist member such as a psychologist or psychiatrist.
If the panel decides to grant an offender’s parole, they will set a date on which he or she will be released from custody. The date is called a ‘voted to parole’ date. The offender will be under either medium or minimum supervision and must agree to abide by the terms and conditions of his or her release.
The Panel’s Decision
Once the panel has considered all of the evidence it will decide whether or not you are suitable for parole. The decision will be either to allow you to move forward with your application or to deny it.
The panel will have between two and four members with one member in charge – known as the chair. There may also be a specialist member, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist.
Parole hearings are usually held in private because they can involve frank and honest discussion about very personal and confidential issues which can cause distress to victims. If the panel’s core function – to assess risk on all available evidence – could be compromised by public disclosure of the hearing then it is not appropriate for a hearing to be open to the public.
Once a panel has made its decision you will be notified of it. If you believe the decision is procedurally unfair or irrational then you can apply for it to be reconsidered yourself, or through your legal representative.
The Offender’s Release
After the offender’s interview is over, a Division of Correction Records Department will do a release check to ensure there are no pending detainers. The offender will then be allowed to make a call for a family member/friend to come pick them up, or the Business Office will purchase a bus ticket.
Upon their release, the offender will be assigned to a probation officer for supervision in the community. The offender must follow all parole rules and attend the required programs and treatment. During his/her time on parole, the offender must remain crime free or he/she will be returned to prison. If the offender violates parole, a revocation hearing will take place. The Board may then decide to revoke the offender’s parole, post-release supervision or reassess the minimum term. Victims have the right to provide input to the Board during the Parole Process.