Someone who is serving a prison sentence may be released earlier than the original sentence if the prisoner has appeared before a parole board and been granted parole. Generally, the prisoner will serve a portion of the sentence, and can then request a parole hearing. If granted a hearing, the prisoner will appear before the parole board – a group of people who have been selected to serve as judges to the prisoner’s ability to be released safely back into society.
The board is usually made up of the Chairman, 2 paid members, and several psychiatrists, judges, probation officers, and other professionals. The parole board is given a dossier which consists of reports of the crime, detailed notes of any trouble the prisoner has gotten into during his incarceration and facts about family and even cohorts. The board will discuss various pertinent things with the prisoner and consider certain factors of the crime and prison record.
It’s extremely important that the prisoner admits to what he has done, even if he pleads not guilty at the trial. If the prisoner doesn’t admit the crime and get treatment, it’s unlikely that he’ll be released by the parole board. If the prisoner was wrongly accused and convicted, it is not the job of the parole board to decide this.
The prisoner can stand by his innocent plea and still be released on parole, under certain circumstances. The parole board must feel that above all, the prisoner is not a threat to society at this time. If the prisoner continues to claim his innocence but appears very angry about the miscarriage of justice, he could be denied parole, based on the amount of anger and lack of self-control displayed during the review.
For particular heinous crimes, like murder, the victim’s family can appear before the board and ask that the prisoner do more of his time. This is taken into consideration by the board, but the families of the victim can’t make the parole board go with this decision. The parole board alone will decide on the release.
There are other considerations that the parole board feels pertinent to the release of the prisoner. Whether there has been any trouble involving the prisoner during his incarceration, whether the prisoner volunteered for work during his incarceration, and whether or not the prisoner has an address to return to upon his possible release are all taken into consideration.
What kind of treatment the prisoner has had during his incarceration is also extremely important. If it was a violent crime, the prisoner must receive help for his temper, admit his faults to the parole board, and explain to them why he knows he will never commit a similar crime again. The parole board may ask him questions about his childhood, drug or alcohol use, intentions for finding work when he’s released, whether or not he has family willing to help him through the transition, and other personal questions.
If the parole board thinks the prisoner is lying, concealing, angry or sarcastic, his immediate release is probably not forthcoming. The board will speak in depth to the prisoner about the crime, why he thinks he did it, and how he knows that he’ll never do it again. If the board is convinced that the prisoner has changed his way of thinking, is sorry for the crime, and intends to be a model citizen in the future, he could be granted the early release.
Even if a prisoner is granted an early release, they are sometimes required to first stay several months at a halfway house. This is usually a supervised home where the parolee can come and go to look for work and visit family, but must return by a certain time.
He is usually required to stay nights at the halfway house, report his wanderings, and participate in the upkeep of the house. If this works out well and the parolee finds work and appears to be living right, he will then be released into society, but must sometimes still report to a parole officer for several more months or even years.
During this time, the parolee is not allowed to do certain things, like associate with any known felon, carry a firearm, or be arrested for any crime. If the parolee breaks these rules, the parole is withdrawn and the prisoner is sent back to do the remainder of his sentence.