Conditions of Parole

Not following parole conditions can land a parolee back behind bars.

By , Attorney Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Updated 9/14/2022

Parole imposes significant restrictions on parolees—those who've been released early from prison on the condition that they abide by certain rules. The rules or conditions parolees must live with are supposed to allow the authorities to retain some control and supervision while the parolee reintegrates into society. If the parolee messes up, the authorities can send the parolee back to prison—meaning a lot is on the line.

What Are Parole Conditions?

When a parole board grants a parole request, it also sets the conditions of parole. Those conditions will be in a parole agreement—basically a contract outlining where the parolee will live and work during parole and establishing rules the parolee must follow to remain in the community.

General or Standard Conditions of Parole

Many parole conditions are standard and apply to all or most parolees. Common parole conditions include:

  • reporting regularly to a supervising officer
  • living within a defined area and not leaving without permission
  • promptly notifying a supervising officer of changes in employment status
  • not possessing any guns or other weapons
  • agreeing to law enforcement searches of one's residence, possessions, and self, and
  • not breaking the law.

Special Conditions of Parole

Others parole conditions are imposed case by case and are specifically tailored to the offender. Examples of these special parole conditions include:

  • submitting to treatment and random testing for drugs or alcohol
  • not contacting the victim or not associating with specified individuals
  • submitting to electronic monitoring
  • attending counseling or anger management
  • not gambling
  • using vocational services, or
  • not viewing pornography or sexually explicit material.

Violating Parole Conditions

If a parolee violates any conditions, the parole officer will generally report the violation to the parole board or another supervising authority. For minor violations, the parole officer may be authorized to impose certain sanctions and handle the matter. Other violations will typically go before the parole board to decide whether to impose sanctions, modify the conditions, or revoke parole. Revoking parole means the parolee heads back to prison.

Are Probation and Parole Conditions the Same?

Parole and probation are similar but not the same. They occur at different times during the criminal justice process and involve different institutions.

When ordering probation, a judge allows the convicted defendant a chance to serve their sentence in the community, rather than behind bars. Parole, on the other hand, is post-incarceration release and isn't part of the sentence. A parole board may grant parole after an inmate has already served part of their sentence in prison.

Both probation and parole often come with conditions. And a violation of those conditions can mean time behind bars. For probationers, a judge will decide whether to revoke probation and send the person to prison. In the case of parolees, usually, the parole board makes revocation decisions for violations.

Getting Help

Though there are helpful online resources for state and federal former prisoners, consider seeking the help of an experienced attorney if you want to fully understand or enforce your rights.

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