Parole occurs when a prisoner is released early to serve out the remainder of their sentence in the community. Parole can be included as part of the original prison sentence or be granted for demonstrating good behavior. Parole is not available for all criminal offenses.
Parole comes with conditions. At a minimum, the parolee must report to a supervising officer regularly. Drug testing, anger management classes, and travel restrictions may also be included. Violating the conditions means parole can be revoked.
Parole derives from the French word parole, meaning pledge. Prisoners are pledging to be good citizens and meet the conditions of parole if granted an early release.
The federal government and states each have their own parole system. At the federal level, a prisoner may not be eligible for reentry into the community until after the minimum time stated in the sentencing order. Then, the United States Parole Commission will have a parole hearing to decide whether parole is appropriate.
States often approach parole differently. In some states, for example in Minnesota, prisoners must serve two-thirds of their sentences and the remaining time under community supervision. There is no parole board. In Texas, on the other hand, prisoners become eligible once time served plus good conduct time equals 25% of the sentence, and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles then decides which eligible offenders to release.
Both federal and state governments prohibit parole for some serious offenses, such as those that come with a life sentence.
The conditions of parole are strict and a single violation can mean a return to prison. If the parole violation is concerning enough there will be another hearing to determine if you will be imprisoned again. In some cases, a minor or technical violation can just mean additional conditions, but any violation, even if minor or technical, can lead to serious consequences.
Not everyone will necessarily have the same conditions and restrictions. Typically, conditions of parole may include some or all of the following:
Parole and probation are similar in concept and can often be confused. Probation is an alternative sentence imposed by the court, meaning someone on probation will not serve time behind bars. A parolee, on the other hand, has already been imprisoned for some time before being released to serve out the remainder of their sentence.
Both include strict conditions, however, and violating either probation or parole can lead to significant consequences.
An arrest and conviction can change everything. Fines or time in jail are the immediate concern, but a conviction will also mean a criminal record that can make it harder to find a job and housing for years to come. If you are arrested or learn you are under investigation, the first thing you should do is contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. You can search LawInfo’s legal directory to find a local criminal defense attorney who can protect your rights and help you determine the best way to proceed with mounting a defense.