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What is Parole?

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What is Parole?

Parole is an aspect of criminal sentencing that involves the early release of a defendant.  While state laws may vary regarding parole, the convicted person must usually serve at least one third of their original sentence in order to be eligible for parole.   Parole is often similar to probation.

The released person, or “parolee” can then re-enter society, often in a limited way and under the supervision of a parole officer.  In order to maintain parole status, the parolee may need to meet certain requirements, such as staying out of legal trouble, meeting regularly with their parole officer, and performing community service acts.  Parole is common for less serious crimes and for juvenile offenders.

Who Qualifies for Parole?

In addition to serving 1/3 of the prison sentence, parole is usually allowed if the person:

  • Has demonstrated good conduct and obedience to the rules while serving in the correctional facility;
  • Would not create a threat to public welfare if released;
  • Would ultimately benefit from a parole arrangement (i.e., they would not likely re-commit the same crime)

Release on parole is not meant to lessen the seriousness of the offense; instead it serves as a way for the person to re-enter society and resume being a productive citizen.  Parole is also more likely granted for first-time offenders as opposed to repeat or habitual offenders (i.e., those who would potentially re-commit the same or a similar crime).

What is “Discretionary Parole”?

Most parole arrangements are discretionary, meaning that they’re dependent on the offender’s completion of the various requirements listed above.  Discretionary parole is also largely dependent on the opinions and judgment of the overseeing judge, who makes a final determination as to whether parole will be beneficial or not.

Discretionary parole is often set in contrast to other types of parole that are more mandatory due to special circumstances (such as “special medical parole”).

Is a Lawyer Necessary for Parole Issues?

The assistance of a lawyer is almost always necessary for issues involving parole or probation.  Parole laws can vary widely from area to area, and also depend on the factors involved in each individual criminal case.  The guidance of a criminal lawyer is indispensable for parole issues, especially after the offender has been released on parole terms. 

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 07-05-2018 08:07 PM PDT

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