Determining Parole Eligibility: Guidelines and Criteria

Categories: Law

Well lets start by learning what parole is and how it came about. What is Parole

Parole, in the context of criminal law, is when a convicted person agrees to behave well in exchange for early release from prison. This agreement allows them to be released before completing their original sentence. The concept of parole includes any type of conditional release or period of freedom. To be granted parole, an inmate must show a history of positive conduct during and prior to their imprisonment.

It is possible for a convicted individual to be released on parole before serving the full prison term if they maintain good behavior and reach either the minimum term or a shorter term as specified by law.

During parole, the release is not a complete discharge as it depends on the parolee meeting their obligations. Throughout this period, the parolee must regularly report to prison authorities or their assigned parole agent/officer. Additional conditions include avoiding association with known criminals and staying within a designated area.

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Violating these terms can result in arrest and return to prison to serve the full term.

Parole is granted to individuals who must serve a portion of their sentence while being monitored by the community. The U.S. Parole Commission has the authority to award parole if certain conditions are met, including following institutional rules, not diminishing the severity of the crime or encouraging disregard for the law, and not posing a threat to public safety.

The main objectives of parole are to provide support to parolees in various areas such as employment, housing, finances, and personal matters through a United States Probation Officer.

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These issues are commonly faced by individuals adjusting to life after being incarcerated. Additionally, parole aims to protect society by helping former prisoners reintegrate into the community and reducing the likelihood of re-offending. Moreover, it prevents unnecessary imprisonment of individuals who are considered unlikely to commit further crimes and meet the criteria for parole. During their time in the community, supervision will focus on reintegrating the offender as a productive member of society.

How does the Commission determine if someone is eligible for Parole

The Parole Commission evaluates an offender's eligibility for parole based on the court-imposed sentence. The term "parole eligibility date" indicates the earliest possible time when parole can be granted to the offender. If parole is granted, the Parole Commission will assign a release date that must occur on or after the eligibility date.

During the sentencing stage, if the court does not establish a minimum serving time or provide an "indeterminate" sentence, offenders may be eligible for parole after completing one-third of their term. However, individuals who receive a life imprisonment sentence or 30 years or more become eligible for parole after 10 years.

The concept of parole is to provide it as a reward for prisoners who demonstrate good behavior during their prison term. This idea presupposes that all offenders have the ability to think rationally and assess the pros and cons of various options in order to make a logical choice. In numerous cases, this assumption remains valid and implies that longer sentences can act as an efficient deterrent, although some politically correct liberals may question this notion. There should be no divergent perspectives on this issue. Individuals who cannot be deterred by such measures would present an excessive risk and should not be given parole or released by any other means.

Another underlying assumption is that all individuals possess an inherent goodness and can be rehabilitated, including offenders. However, a large portion of offenders, including up to 50% of those who commit violent acts, are psychopathic. It is unlikely that their behavior can be significantly changed in the short or long term, even with the prospect of parole. It is important to note that some offenders may possess rationality, but are also psychopathic.

We should never grant parole to these offenders because they will definitely commit new offenses. While we may not be able to deter irrational individuals, it is pointless to try to change their behavior by offering parole. The rational psychopaths and offenders should both remain imprisoned for a very important reason - it prevents them from re-offending. As a result, the minority of violent offenders who are rational but not psychopathic are left.

Some people believe that parole is undesirable because it undermines the authority of judges, a view that I completely agree with. The duration of a sentence should be determined by the judge in the case and not by the parole board several years later. This approach would also benefit the public, as it would provide greater clarity regarding sentence lengths and enable easier evaluation of the sentences being imposed.

Discretionary parole decisions are based on various factors, including the need for punishment, successful community reintegration, and victim and community restoration. These decisions consider the nature of the crime, the offender's criminal history and behavior in prison, social background, and risk to the community. Additionally, input from crime victims and affected communities is taken into account. The main goal of discretionary parole decisions is to enhance public safety by keeping dangerous offenders incarcerated while offering released offenders the necessary assistance to become law-abiding members of their community.

When there is a shortage of correctional beds, parole boards use a rational process to release inmates who are the least likely to be a danger to the community. Parole boards are the only part of the criminal justice system that can consider all factors and release offenders who can be effectively supervised in the community, which greatly improves public safety.

The core services provided by parole, including investigations, victim advocacy, release planning, community supervision, immediate response to violations, and treatment services, are crucial for public protection. Parole serves as a strong ally for both the courts and victims, ensuring that the voice of the victim is acknowledged and respected. This makes parole boards a valuable partner for victims and victim advocacy groups.

What happens at a parole hearing

During a parole hearing, the offender can present their viewpoint and reasoning for why they think parole should be given. The hearing covers different subjects such as the details of the offense committed, the offender's prior criminal record, the guidelines used by the Commission in making decisions, any accomplishments achieved while incarcerated, information about their release plan, and potential future obstacles that may arise. The Commission considers both public safety concerns and the individual's personal requirements.

How do any of the following situations affect parole

  1. Institution misconduct. The prisoner is expected to observe the rules of the institution in which confined to be eligible for parole. Misconduct resulting in forfeited or withheld good time indicates that institution rules have not been observed and is a poor argument for parole, but does not automatically disqualify the applicant from Commission consideration.
  2. Presence of a detainer. A detainer does not of itself constitute a basis to deny parole. A prisoner may be paroled to a detainer indicating an actual release to the custody of another jurisdiction. If the detainer is dropped, the parole will occur, with an approved plan, directly to the community. In some circumstances, parole may be to the detainer only and if the detainer is dropped, further action regarding parole will not occur, pending additional review by the Commission.
  3. Alien subject to deportation. In some cases, the Commission grants parole on condition that the alien be deported and remain outside the United States. In other cases, the Commission merely grants parole to an immigration detainer. In such instances the individual does not leave the institution until the immigration officials are ready to receive him.
  4. Case in court on appeal. All persons have the right by law to appeal their conviction and sentence. The Parole Commission recognizes this right and the existence of a court appeal has no bearing whatever on parole decisions.

Parole offers numerous advantages, benefiting both the offender and society as a whole. It allows the offender to spend less time in prison while receiving supervision to aid their reintegration into society. They continue to have access to vital support services during this period. Moreover, parole facilitates faster restoration of familial bonds, minimizing negative effects on families and reducing the societal cost of family breakdown. Additionally, it reduces the risk of criminal socialization that can take place within prisons. To encourage program participation and promote positive behavior during incarceration, correctional facilities utilize the incentive of "good time".

Maintaining order in the state's overcrowded prisons would be more difficult without the incentive provided by parole. Furthermore, it is more economical for individuals to be on parole rather than incarcerated (the parolee must pay a $30 monthly supervision fee, which also lowers state costs). Parole helps ease prison overcrowding by monitoring parolees and allowing the community to have some control and safety, while enabling parole officers to evaluate their successful reintegration into society. This gradual reintegration reduces the risk posed by individuals who may otherwise be unprepared upon their release from prison.

Those opposed to parole say

When an offender is released early on parole, they are not serving their full sentence, which undermines the punishment intended by society. This can be perceived as dishonest. Furthermore, it can upset the balance of justice as some offenders are granted parole while others who may have committed lesser crimes are not. There is always a risk that the individual on parole will reoffend, as accurately assessing their danger level is beyond the capacity of the system. Additionally, the local community incurs additional costs due to providing services for parolees, whereas the state covers the cost of prison time.

Abolishing parole

The nation is witnessing a movement aimed at abolishing parole, which has been prompted by high-profile crimes committed by recently released prisoners. The main objective of this movement is to prevent the release of offenders and keep them incarcerated instead. Currently, eleven states have already done away with parole in order to impose harsher punishment on criminals and ensure longer periods of imprisonment. However, four states initially eliminated parole but later reinstated it after realizing that its elimination did not result in longer prison sentences. This decision was primarily driven by the excessive overcrowding of prisons, which led to the release of other inmates. In several states where parole has been abolished, there has been a surge in costs, an uncontrollable rise in the prison population, and the unsupervised release of violent and dangerous offenders.

Abolishing parole results in the absence of community supervision upon release. Ex-prisoners who were released without parole supervision have committed high-profile crimes in some instances. An example is the well-known case of Polly Klaas, who was murdered in a state that had abolished parole and implemented an automatic release program for all offenders without supervision. The persistence of parole can be attributed to several factors. One explanation is that states that have eliminated parole have experienced minimal impact on public safety. Crime rates and severity remain unchanged in these states.

Approximately one-third of prisoners are re-incarcerated within three to five years after being released due to committing a new offense. This rate, although not as high as the commonly believed two-thirds failure rate, remains consistent regardless of whether parole release is granted or not. The presence of supervision does have a tendency to delay the occurrence of reoffending. The only proven benefit of eliminating parole is that it provides prisoners with a more accurate understanding of their release date.

Although there isn't enough evidence to support the abolition of parole, there are significant flaws in the argument against it. It is clear that any parolee who commits a new offense can be seen as a failure. However, it should be noted that most individuals convicted of crimes and imprisoned will eventually reintegrate into society. Moreover, ex-convicts without parole commit crimes of the same severity as those committed by parolees. Therefore, eliminating parole will not eliminate criminal activities carried out by ex-convicts.

In summary, the policy discussion can be viewed as insignificant. Whether there is parole or not, there is unlikely to be a significant impact on crime. However, there is something of importance at risk. This is often overlooked when we concentrate solely on recidivism rates and the suffering of crime victims. At stake is our perception of justice and the type of society we choose to be a part of.

Are we bound together by our fears and by our need to punish and exclude? Or are we bound together by our hope for community, by our hope for rehabilitation and reconciliation

What is at stake is the significance that the progressive reformers assigned to the introduction of parole in the early 1900s. Parole ensures that we have the authority to determine a convict's future long after the intensity of the crime and trial have subsided, giving us time to consider remorse and reform. Parole presents the opportunity for offenders to change their lives and liberate themselves from imprisonment and their past. Thus, parole offers more than just the chance for early release; it also presents the chance for reconciliation and healing. For convicts, parole holds open the possibility of redemption. For the rest of society, parole holds open the possibility of forgiveness.

Perhaps few seek redemption in prison and even fewer actually find it, highlighting the harsh reality. However, it would be even more severe for society if redemption were completely unattainable and forgiveness ceased to exist. Hence, I believe that parole should not be eliminated, as certain offenders genuinely transform themselves and deserve an opportunity to demonstrate this change. If parole were abolished, individuals who have not committed grave offenses or have made a foolish error but have genuinely reformed themselves during their time in a correctional institute would never have the chance to be released early.

Updated: Feb 16, 2024
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Determining Parole Eligibility: Guidelines and Criteria. (2016, Jun 25). Retrieved from

Determining Parole Eligibility: Guidelines and Criteria essay
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