What is a Parole Board?

Parole is the early release of a prisoner, typically due to good behavior, and the parole board is responsible for determining if an individual deserves parole. When an individual faces criminal charges, he or she must go before the judge and go through a trial. Those who serve their time in prison or jail may qualify for early release. The parole board will evaluate a number of factors before deciding if an individual is ready to leave prison, but the board may perform other duties as needed.

Parole vs. Probation

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the main difference between parole and probation relates to the amount of supervision imposed on the person. Probation occurs after an individual commits a crime, and it often includes direct supervision. A probation officer frequently checks on that person to ensure he or she holds down a job and meets any other probation requirements. Parole may include some minor supervision, but an individual typically has more freedom when out on parole. If the board determines the individual has adequately served the sentence, he or she may have complete freedom.

Who Serves on the Board?

A parole board typically consists of those with experience in the penal system and those who work for a prison system. It can include the warden, psychologists who have experience working with similar individuals, and other corrections workers. Each state has its own board in place, and many states put the board in charge of pardons, as well. The parole board has the right to pardon an inmate and remove his or her criminal record based on new evidence. Most states also give the governor of the state complete control over the board.

What Does the Board Do?

While a judge sets potential parole dates for an individual during the sentencing stage of the trial, the parole board is responsible for making the decision on parole. An individual may qualify for parole within a few months or years after sentencing, but some crimes require that a criminal spend a longer period of time in prison before seeking parole. When an inmate is eligible for parole, the board will conduct a hearing to gather information. The board will often hear from the officers who worked on the case, the corrections officers who interact with the inmate, community members that know the inmate, and anyone else involved in the case. The victims and loved ones of a victim also have the right to speak at the parole hearing.

Factors That Determine Parole

There are a number of things that the board reviews before deciding if parole is a good option. The United States has laws in place regarding victims rights, which give the victim the right to ask for leniency from the board or request that a criminal remain behind bars. The board will also talk with counselors and psychologists working on the case about what they think and if they believe the criminal deserves parole. Other factors that can determine parole include the severity of the crime and how the criminal acted in prison.

An individual who receives parole is allowed to leave prison before their sentence ends. Before that can happen, a board of professionals views all facts about the case at a hearing. The parole board weighs the facts of the case carefully and talks with other professionals before deciding if a criminal deserves parole or should spend more time in prison.