When an individual is sentenced to prison, their sentence includes the possibility of parole. Prisoners who commit particularly heinous or brutal crimes are often left to serve out their sentence without the possibility of parole. Many of us are familiar with these terms because we watch the news or crime dramas on television, but what does parole entail, exactly? Who decides to reward a prisoner with parole, and what goes into that decision?

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Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about parole.

Q. What is Parole?

A. Parole is the release of a prisoner before they have served their full sentence. The parolee has to agree to follow certain rules and standards of behavior while they are on parole. Any violations of these rules will result in them returning to prison.

Q. Why is Parole Important?

A. Parole is a serious motivator for prisoners to stay on their best behavior. Prisoners who exhibit good behavior receive parole more often than problem prisoners. The possibility of early release helps many prisoners stay on track and avoid getting involved in fights or the trafficking of contraband inside the prison, creating a safer environment for the inmates and guards.

Parole also helps prisoners transition back into society with the supervision of a parole officer to make sure they follow the rules of parole and avoid reoffending.

Q. How Does a Prisoner Get Paroled?

A. After a prisoner has served part of their sentence – how much of a part depends on the state in which they’re being held and their behavior while in prison – they will become eligible for parole, unless their sentence specifies that they are ineligible.

At this point, they will have the opportunity to prepare a parole request packet to send to the parole board. The packet should include any awards received or programs completed while in prison, as well as letters of support from community members who will assist the prisoner during their reintegration into society.

Q. Who Decides Which Prisoners are Paroled?

A. The members of the state’s parole board decide who gets paroled and who doesn’t. In Texas, the decision-makers are the voting members of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.

Q. Which Factors are Considered at a Parole Hearing?

A. The board will consider the nature of the offense; the prisoner’s criminal history; the involvement of drugs or alcohol; the prisoner’s age; their behavior while in prison; their life before the offense; and their post-prison plan. No one can predict with total certainty who will be paroled and who won’t, but it’s helpful to have a clean record, good behavior in prison, and a support system waiting on the outside.

Q. What are the Conditions of Parole?

A. Because parole is a transitional phase, parolees must abide by certain rules and restrictions as determined by the court. Parolees are typically required to meet with a parole officer on a regular basis to minimize their chance of reoffending. They must be willing to share their location when asked, or submit to wearing a GPS monitor. They must also submit to random searches of their homes or themselves, even without probable cause.
If the parolee wishes to travel, they must get their parole officer’s permission first, and they must abide by court-mandated travel restrictions.

People on parole must avoid committing any crime. Breaking the law can be a basis for revocation of parole. They cannot use drugs or alcohol, and they must avoid socializing with gang members or anyone else the court forbids.

Any other court-ordered conditions must be met, such as attending counseling, rehab, anger management classes, or paying fines and restitution.

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