Who makes parole decisions?

Who makes parole decisions depends on which government has jurisdiction over a prisoner. If the inmate is in federal prison, different rules apply than in the state system. There are also differences in the states’ parole laws.

U.S. Parole Commission

Under the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984, federal prisoners convicted after November 1, 1987 aren’t  eligible for parole. (But many who aren’t in prison for life sentences may still earn time off for good behavior.)

The  U.S. Parole Commission, which operates under the authority of the U.S. Department of Justice, holds parole hearings and makes parole determinations for prisoners convicted on or before November 1, 1987.

State Parole Boards

While judges may include in their sentences components like probation or supervision that follows a completed sentence, they can’t grant parole. Only the state parole board may consider an eligible inmate’s case and grant (or deny) parole.

Each state has a parole board that operates as part of the state department of corrections or as an independent agency. In some states, like California, board members are appointed by the governor and subject to state senate confirmation.

Each state parole board has its own rules and procedures. State statutes usually determine which crimes make inmates ineligible for parole and when prisoners become eligible for parole hearings, but it is the parole board that must consider the unique facts of each inmate’s situation to determine who is actually released on parole. (See Can a parole board change its decision?)

Find Out More

Most parole boards have a website with state-specific information about parole procedure and decision making. Enter “[your state] parole board” or similar terms into your Internet search engine to find details about the relevant system.

For a fuller explanation of the law, and for insight about how it applies to your situation, contact an experienced attorney. Such a lawyer should be able to answer a range of questions about parole, including whether parole-board decisions are final.

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