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The Basics of the Parole Process - Stuff Worth Knowing

Parole provides prisoners with a structured and supervised support system to get back to the community and lead a normal social life. By allowing a convict to serve part of his sentence like a normal citizen, albeit subject to the conditions and restrictions placed by the court. Parole helps those confined in jails for long to re-adjust to the society without compromising on the security of the people around. Here are some basic rules and fundamental principles of parole and how it works.

What is Parole?

Parole is basically conditional freedom granted to a prison inmate based on his good records and behavior during his sentence. The prisoner, now called a parolee is released from the confinements of his cell and allowed to live in the community as long as he fulfills his responsibilities. Failure to meet up to their duties and break the rules would get them back in prison.

The laws and procedures pertaining to parolees vary across states, although this is the fundamental aspect of it which remains unchanged. If you have a family member or friend imprisoned, then you can check out their details on Prisonfinder. Once this first step is complete, you’d then need to seek inside information about the parole process followed by that prison.

Parole is considered a privilege, not a right. Any convict is not automatically eligible to apply for a parole, it is granted to only those who are considered capable of being in the society. Prison authorities get to decide who gets a parole and who doesn’t. The restrictions and responsibilities imposed on the parolee are done to encourage good behavior after incarceration. The possibility of a parole also acts as an incentive for most convicts to avoid trouble while in jail thereby making the ordeal easier on the authorities. 

Applying for Parole

Not every prisoner can apply for a parole. State law make certain kinds of convictions ineligible for the parole privilege. And most prisoners who do get a parole do so after serving a considerable sentence. In fact, life without a parole (commonly called “LWOP”) is an alternative to deathpunishment.

For those who can avail for a parole have to appear before a parole board which then decides if he/she is suitable to be sent back to society. The parole decisions are taken after several steps and can take considerable time, depending on how the hearings turn up. The parole board reviews the application and then sends it to the board. In some states, the government has a say in the review petition and the paroledecision-making process.

What Happens on Parole?

Parole, as we’ve stated earlier, is a privilege granted to a select few. And once your application for a parole is reviewed and granted by the authorities, you’re free to live a supervised life in the society. Often prison authorities hold the right to check up on the parolee via mandatory visits with a parole officer. The state parole services also provide transitional services like mental health counseling and shelter necessities to parolees. Some common conditions and rules that parolee should abide by are;

  • Get employment and maintain a residence
  • Refrain from criminal activity
  • Refrain from contacting criminals
  • No contact with prior victims
  • Refrain from drugs, alcohol and other illegal substances
  • Regular attendance at drug/alcohol rehabilitation meetings and support groups
  • Cannot leave the area (the geographical location set by authorities) without prior permission

Each parolee is assigned an officer who can make unannounced visits to check if he’s abiding by the rules or not. Failure to comply with the rules laid down by the state can land the parolees back in prison.

Parole Violations

Parole violations can be of various types. The more serious offenses include indulging in criminal activities or drug abuse, the minor cases would be when the parolee fails to report to the officers or leaves the state without permission. The minor or technical violations usually lead to the parolee being sent back to jail. However, if it’s a serious case then the authorities may send the parolee to court where a panel decides what’s to become of him/her. In these hearings, the judge or the parole board considers the nature and conditions of the crime committed and then pass the necessary punishment. In some cases, the parolee is sent back to custody, in others, his jail term is extended by a few months or years.

Some Basic Facts

Contrary to popular belief, getting a parole is in no way “the easy way out”. Here are some interesting facts about the parole process that you should be familiar with;

  • Prisoners with life sentence are eligible for paroles unless specified otherwise.
  • Most states hire even layman farmers, auto salesmen, DuPont executives and personal fitness trainers on the parole board
  • Prisoners have no legal rights on parole hearings. Paroles are an “act of grace” and hence no protection is given to the prisoner.
  • There are no iron-clad laws governing the parole board, the decision guidelines are pretty basic and can be tweaked
  • Parole is not an “early release” the parolee has to serve his sentence, although not in jail, but out in society. Convicts aren’t immediately eligible for paroles,; they have to serve a few years before the application is considered
  • Getting a parole is not a cakewalk, also there are no set guideline behaviors that would earn you a parole. Sometimes a clean record and good prison behaviorgo
  • Parole boards can make surprise checks, monitor your life outside prison and conduct unannounced visits
  • Most parole boards don’t even meet the prisoner, they usually consider the convict’s records and review his application.

The Bottom Line

Adjusting with the community especially after spending a considerable time in confinement is quite a daunting task. Most parolees find it difficult to integrate back into society. If you are granted a parolee, reach out to your family and loved ones, stay positive and vigilant and most importantly- don’t give up hope. It’s never too late to get your life back on track and live an honest life.

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