FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT PAROLE PROCEDURES.

 

1. What is PAROLE?

Parole is the serving of part of your sentence under supervision in the community. The law says that the Parole Commission may grant parole if (a) the inmate has substantially observed the rules of the institution; (b) release would not depreciate the seriousness of the offense or promote disrespect for the law; and (c) release would not jeopardize the public welfare.

2. Is parole the same as probation?

No. Probation is a period of supervision in the community imposed by the court as an alternative to imprisonment. Parole is the release of a prisoner to supervision in the community after he/she has completed a part of his/her sentence in an institution.

3. What is the purpose of parole?

Parole has a three-fold purpose: (1) through the assistance of the United States Probation Officer, a parolee may obtain help with problems concerning employment, residence, finances, or other personal problems which often trouble a person trying to adjust to life upon release from prison; (2) parole protects society because it helps former prisoners get established in the community and thus prevents many situations in which they might commit a new offense; and (3) parole prevents needless imprisonment of those who are not likely to commit further crime and who meet the criteria for parole set forth in the answer to Question 1. While in the community, supervision will be oriented toward reintegrating the offender as a productive member of society.

4. What Does "PAROLE ELIGIBILITY" Mean?

You become "eligible" for parole according to the type of sentence you received from the court. Your "parole eligibility" date is the earliest time you might be paroled. If the Parole Commission decides to parole you it will set the date of your release, but that date must be on or after your "eligibility" date.

5. How can I Tell when I become Eligible for Parole?

Unless the court specified a minimum time for you to serve or imposed an "indeterminate" type of sentence, parole eligibility occurs upon completion of one-third of your term. If you are serving a life sentence or a term or terms of 30 years or more you become eligible for parole after 10 years. If the court used sub-paragraph (b) (2) of 4205, Title 18, U.S.C. in your case, you are eligible for parole at any time.

6. How do I apply for parole?

You must fill out and sign an application for parole furnished by your case manager. This form is provided to you before you are scheduled to appear before the Commission. Everyone except those committed under juvenile delinquency procedure who wishes to be considered for parole must complete the parole application.

7. What if I do not wish to apply for parole?

You should sign a waiver instead of a parole application. If you should later change your mind you may apply and have a hearing at the next regularly scheduled meeting by a Hearing Examiner, provided you apply at least 60 days before the month in which the Hearing Examiner is scheduled to visit your institution.

8. How will I know when my hearing will be held?

You will be notified by your Case Manager when your hearing is scheduled. Your first or initial hearing will ordinarily take place within a few months after your arrival unless you are serving a minimum term of ten years or more in which case your initial hearing will be scheduled six months prior to the completion of 10 years.

9. Will I be allowed to see my file before the hearing?

The Notice of Hearing form will tell you that you may ask to see your file before the hearing. Certain parts of the file are exempted by law from being shown to you. Such exempted parts will be summarized, however, and the summary furnished to you if you ask to see your file. If you ask to see your file, or part of it, you may inspect any documents, except the exempted ones, which the Parole Commission uses as a basis for its decision about your parole. Your Case Manager can explain what types of material are exempted by law, and can assist you in requesting your file review. He/she can also tell you about the possibility of reviewing your file at some time other than just before your parole hearing.

10. May I have someone go into the hearing room with me?

The Notice of Hearing form provides a place for you to name someone as your representative at the hearing. You must have his/her permission, and you must give him/her enough time to plan to attend the hearing. Your representative may enter the hearing room with you and make a brief statement on your behalf. Should you decide not to have a representative you will be asked to initial the waiver section on the Notice of Hearing form.

11. Who else will be present at the parole hearing?

Generally, hearings will be conducted by a Hearing Examiner, who is a member of the staff of the Parole Commission. Your Case Manager generally also will attend the hearing. Observers may ask to come into the hearing room occasionally. These are usually members of the institution staff or personnel of the Parole Commission. A person who wishes to speak in opposition to your parole may also appear at the hearing.

12. What goes on at a parole hearing?

The hearing is an opportunity for you to tell your own story and to express your own thoughts as to why you feel you should be paroled. Many subjects may come up during the course of the hearing. These may include such things as the details of your offense, your prior criminal history, the guidelines which the Commission uses in making a parole decision, your accomplishments in the institution, the details of your release plan, and any problems you have had to meet in the past or are likely to face in the future. The Commission is interested both in the protection of society against further criminal behavior as well as your needs as an individual. There are no hard and fast rules about the content or length of the hearing.

13. Are the hearings recorded?

Yes, the interview is recorded. You may request a copy of the recording by submitting a request under the Freedom of Information Act.

14. When is a decision made concerning my parole?

An Examiner reviews your case file before your interview. A recommendation relative to parole is made at the conclusion of the hearing and in most instances you will be notified of that recommendation. If a recommendation is not provided, the Examiner may refer your case to the Commission's Office for further review. All recommendations made at the hearing are only tentative as another examiner review is required before the final decision is made by the Regional Commissioner. Usually, within 21 days after the hearing you will be sent a Notice of Action advising you of the official decision.

15. How does the Hearing Examiner decide on a recommendation about parole?

The Hearing Examiner uses Commission approved guidelines to determine how long you should serve in addition to his/her own judgment. In using the guidelines, three important factors are considered. These are (1) the severity of your current offense behavior; (2) the "salient factor score" which contains items about you (such as your prior criminal history) that help predict your chances of success on parole; and (3) your institutional adjustment and program performance.

16. Is the Hearing Examiner required to follow the Guidelines?

No, the guidelines serve only as a general indicator for use during your hearing. The Examiner may make a recommendation outside of the guidelines, but in such case the examiner must state in writing the special reasons which justify that recommendation.

In making a recommendation, the Examiner may take into account anything of importance relating to your case. Since no two persons' situations are alike, factors of importance in one case may not be important in another. Codefendants, for example, may not be handled alike because of their different backgrounds or other facts which make their cases different.

17. May I see a copy of the Guidelines and the "Salient Factor Score" sheet?

Yes, your Case Manager can advise where you can review the guidelines and "salient factor score" sheet. These also may be in the institution library. The Notice of Action you receive following your parole hearing will include a copy of your own guideline factors and "salient factor score" sheet.

18. Does the Judge or other court official make a recommendation to the Commission regarding parole?

The Judge who sentenced you, the Assistant United States Attorney who prosecuted your case and your defense attorney may make recommendations regarding parole. These recommendations are generally submitted to the Commission before your first hearing and become a part of the material the Commission considers. The Judge's recommendation and the defense attorney's recommendation will be made on Form AO-235. The Assistant United States Attorney's recommendation will be on Form 792.

19. Does the Hearing Examiner usually follow the recommendations made by the institution staff?

Institution staff recommendations if provided are given thoughtful consideration but are not always followed as they are only one of the several factors considered by the Examiner and the Commission. See answer to Question 1 for the criteria for parole consideration by the Commission.

20. How do any of the following situations affect my parole?

A. Forfeited or withheld good time. The law requires that a prisoner observe the rules of the institution in which confined in order to be eligible for parole. Forfeited or withheld good time indicates that institution rules have not been observed and is a poor argument for parole, but does not automatically disqualify the applicant from Commission consideration.

B. Presence of a detainer. The presence of a detainer does not of itself constitute a reason to deny parole. If you otherwise would be paroled you may be paroled "to the detainer or an approved plan." In that event you will be released to the physical custody of the state or local authorities; or, should the detainer be dropped, to your plan for community living. In other cases, you may be paroled "to the detainer only." In those cases, should the detainer be dropped, you will not be released and a further review will be made by the Commission.

C. Alien subject to deportation. In some cases, the Commission grants parole on condition that the alien be deported and remain outside the United States. In other cases, the Commission merely grants parole to an immigration detainer. In such instances the individual does not leave the institution until the immigration officials are ready to receive him.

D. Case in court on appeal. All persons have the right by law to appeal their conviction and sentence. The Parole Commission recognizes this right and the existence of a court appeal has no bearing whatever on parole decisions.

21. May I be paroled if I have an unpaid committed fine?

A fine for which you "stand committed" must be taken care of in some way before the Commission can take action on the "time portion" of your sentence. The usual way to take care of a fine is to pay it. If you cannot do so, you may apply to take an "indigent prisoner's oath" if you can show that you have few or no funds or assets. Your Case Manager can help you apply to take this oath. If you can neither pay the fine nor qualify for the above described oath, the Warden or Magistrate might determine that you need all of your money or assets to support yourself and your family. In some cases you may be able to pay part of your fine and the Warden or Magistrate will determine that you need the remainder of your money or assets for the support of yourself and your family. In such cases, however, you still have a civil requirement to pay the fine at some later date. If you do have sufficient money or assets to pay your committed fine but fail to do so, you will not be paroled.

22. Will I be given the reasons if I am not paroled?

Yes, the Hearing Examiner will discuss the recommendation with you at the time of your hearing, and the Notice of Action will state the reasons for the decision. It will also provide the reasons if the Commission's decision continues you outside the range called for in the guidelines.

23. If I am not paroled will I be given another hearing?

By law, if your sentence is less than seven years you will be granted another hearing after 18 months from the time of your last hearing. If your sentence is seven years or more the next hearing is scheduled 24 months from the time of your last hearing. Your first Statutory Interim Hearing may be delayed until the docket preceding eligibility if there is more than 18 or 24 months between your initial hearing and your eligibility date.

24. What if I decide I do not want to have a Statutory Interim Hearing?

If the Commission has granted you a presumptive parole date, you may waive the Statutory Interim Hearing, only if you have not received any major Disciplinary Hearing Officer level incident reports. If you have been continued to expiration or a 15 year reconsideration hearing you may waive subsequent statutory interim hearings. If you waive the statutory interim hearing you will not be heard again unless you submit a reapplication for the hearing.

25. If I am not paroled may I appeal the decision?

Yes, within thirty days of the date on your Notice of Action you may file an appeal with the National Appeals Board. Your Case Manager can give you the form used for this purpose. After receiving your appeal, the National Appeals Board may affirm, reverse or modify the Regional Commissioner's decision or may order a new hearing. A decision by the National Appeals Board is final. Decisions made under the procedures of the District of Columbia are not eligible for the appeal process.

26. If the Commission does not parole me earlier, may I be paroled later on near the end of my term?

If your sentence is five years or longer the law provides that you will be paroled by the Commission when you have served two-thirds of your term or terms, unless the Commission makes a finding either that (1) you have seriously or frequently violated institution rules and regulations, or (2) there is a reasonable probability that you will commit a further crime. If you are serving a life term or consecutive terms, your Case Manager can explain the law in relation to parole at the two-thirds point.

27. Will I be given a hearing just before my "two-thirds" date?

If you are serving a sentence of five years or larger, your case will be reviewed on the record shortly before your "two-thirds" date arrives. If you are not paroled on the basis of a "record review," you will be scheduled for a hearing when the Hearing Examiner next visits the institution. A decision about your parole will then follow that hearing.

28. May I waive parole at the two-thirds point of my sentence?

Yes. If you choose to waive parole at this point, your release will occur at the mandatory release date of your sentence.

29. If I am paroled after two-thirds of my sentence must I comply with the parole conditions like any other parolee?

Yes. You must abide by the conditions of release, and your parole may be revoked if you violate any of them. You will remain under supervision until the expiration of your sentence unless the Commission terminates supervision earlier. The reduction of supervision time by 180 days provided by the mandatory release laws does not apply to this type of parole.

30. If parole is not granted to me at any time on my sentence, when do I go out?

Unless you have forfeited all statutory good time, you will be released via Mandatory Release. The Mandatory Release date is computed by the institution officials according to how much statutory good time you are entitled to and how much "extra" good time you earn. The law states that a mandatory releasee "shall upon release be treated as if released on parole and shall be subject to all provisions of the law relating to the parole of United States prisoners until the expiration of the maximum term or terms for which he was sentenced, less 180 days." This means you should have a release plan as if you were going out on parole. You will be supervised by a United States Probation Officer as if you were a parolee until 180 days before the expiration date of your sentence provided you do not violate the conditions of release, in which case the Commission retains jurisdiction to the original full term date of your sentence.

If you are not paroled and have less than 180 days left on your sentence when you are released, you will be released without supervision.

If you are serving a special parole term your supervision will terminate at the full term date. The 180 day date does not apply.

31. If the Parole Commission grants parole, when will I be released?

If your parole plan is complete and has been approved by the Parole Commission following an investigation by the United States Probation Officer, you will be released on the date set by the Commission (assuming, of course, that your parole is not retarded or rescinded for misconduct or for some other reason). If your plan is not approved, your release may be delayed regardless of the effective date which the Commission set when it granted your parole.

32. What type of release plan must I have?

Your release plan should normally include a suitable residence and a verified offer of employment. A parole advisor is necessary only if the Commission or the United States Probation Officer specifically says that one should be obtained. There are exceptions. For example, a definite job is sometimes neither necessary nor possible. The Commission always considers the individual's situation and may waive this or any other standard requirement if it sees fit to do so. On the other hand, special requirements may be added and must be met before release.

33. How can I get a job while I am still in the institution?

Relatives, friends, and social agencies in the community where you wish to live or former employers are likely contacts. If you are released through a Community Corrections Center this is also a time during which you may find employment.

Job offers are investigated by the United States Probation Officer to whom you will report, and that officer reports back to the institution and the Parole Commission.

34. What types of jobs are suitable for a parolee?

In most cases, any legitimate employment is normally acceptable. Full time work is preferable to part-time; work done continuously at one location generally is better than work which makes travel necessary. It is also expected that the job you obtain will provide enough income for yourself and your dependents.

In a particular case the Parole Commission may rule specifically against certain employment. If, for example, the original offense behavior involved abuse of a certain occupational position and there would be a likelihood of further criminal conduct if you returned to such employment then that employment may be denied.

35. What can I do if I have no home to go to?

The Commission is interested in your having a suitable place to live. Sometimes this is with family or relatives, but in other cases the Commission may consider an independent living agreement more suitable. There is no rigid rule which requires that you be paroled to your home if you have one, or that you cannot be paroled if you do not.

36. Must I return to the community from which I came?

In most instances you will be released to the Judicial District in which you were convicted or the Judicial District of your legal residence. Your former community may offer the best opportunity for the help and support you will need. If the Commission believes, however, that your chance of success on parole is greater in another community, it may order residence in a different Judicial District.

37. After I am released, to whom and when do I report?

Unless you are released to a detainer, you will go to your approved residence and report within three days to the United States Probation Office shown on your release certificate. You continue to report to your Probation Officer in person as instructed by him. In addition, monthly written reports are required as long as you remain under supervision on your sentence.

38. Upon what conditions am I released on parole or mandatory release?

The conditions are indicated on the release certificate presented to you when you are released or on the Notice of Action.

39. May any of the conditions of release be changed by the Commission?

If you believe the conditions on your Certificate of Release are unfair, you may ask your Case Manager for an appeal form and submit it to the Regional Commissioner within 30 days after you are released. The Commission will consider your appeal and you will be notified of the decision. While your appeal is pending, you must continue to abide by the conditions imposed.

40. After I am released may any of the conditions be changed; or can additional ones be imposed?

The Probation Officer or the Commission itself may propose changing or adding to the conditions. You will be notified of any such proposal and will be allowed up to ten days to make any written comments you wish to the Commission. A form for this purpose will be available and you can use it for your comments if you wish. You may write directly to the Commission (with a copy to your Probation Officer) if you wish to have any of the conditions amended or deleted and your request will be considered.

41. May I be required to go into a half-way house or undergo some course of treatment for drug or alcohol use while under supervision?

Federal law permits the Commission to require you to participate in any of the programs mentioned for all or part of your time under supervision. In most cases, you will be notified in advance and may submit your comments about the proposal to the Commission before the final decision is made.

42. May I own, use or possess firearms after my release?

Except in very rare situations, federal law forbids anyone who has ever been convicted of a felony from possessing firearms or ammunition. Generally, therefore, you will not be permitted to own or possess a firearm or ammunition. Further information may be obtained from your Probation Officer.

43. How long will I remain under supervision after my release?

If you are paroled, you will remain under the jurisdiction of the Parole Commission and under supervision of your Probation Officer until the maximum expiration date of your sentence, unless the Commission terminates supervision earlier. If your supervision is terminated early, you will be given a Certificate of Early Termination.

If you are not paroled and are instead mandatorily released, your supervision automatically ends 180 days before the maximum expiration date, unless the Commission terminates your supervision earlier and issues you a Certificate of Early Termination.

44. How does the Commission decide whether to terminate my supervision early?

Your Probation Officer will submit an annual report to the Commission about your adjustment in the community. After reviewing the report including any recommendations, the Commission may decide to terminate your supervision early. By law, the Commission must consider your case after your second year in the community (not counting any time spent in confinement since your release), and every year thereafter.

After five years of supervision in the community the Commission must terminate your supervision unless it finds that there is a likelihood that you will engage in conduct violating any law. Any finding of that nature will be made only after you have had an opportunity for a personal hearing. You may choose to waive the hearing if you wish.

45. What happens if I violate the conditions of parole or mandatory release?

Your Probation Officer reports the violation to the Parole Commission and a Commissioner determines the appropriate sanctions, including the possibility of issuance of a warrant for your arrest or a summons for you to appear at a hearing. The Probation Officer is required to report any and all violations, but may recommend that you be continued under supervision. His/her recommendation is one of the factors considered by the Commission in its decision.

46. Who issues a warrant or summons if I violate parole or mandatory release?

Only a Parole Commissioner may issue a warrant or a summons for a violation of the conditions of release.

47. After a WARRANT OR SUMMONS is issued, What happens Then?

You are either taken into custody or summonsed to appear at a hearing. Custody is usually in the nearest government approved jail or detention center. Unless you have been convicted of a new offense, a Probation Officer will personally advise you of your legal rights and conduct a preliminary interview. The Probation Officer will discuss the charges which have been placed against you and then submit a report to the Commission. In this report, the Probation Officer will recommend whether there is "probable cause" to believe that a violation has occurred and whether you should be held in custody pending a revocation hearing or be reinstated to supervision. The Probation Officer will advise you of the recommendation and the basis for it.

After the Probation Officer's report is received, the Regional Commissioner will either order you reinstated to supervision or order you held for a revocation hearing by a Hearing Examiner.

If you were convicted of a new offense, you are not entitled to a preliminary interview because the conviction is sufficient evidence that you did violate the conditions of your release. In such case, you may be transported without delay to a federal institution for your revocation hearing.

48. May I have an attorney at my preliminary interview and revocation hearing?

Yes, you are entitled to an attorney of your choice (or have one appointed by the court if you cannot afford to pay for one). It is your responsibility to keep your attorney advised as to the time and place of the hearing.

49. Where are the revocation hearings held?

Generally, revocation hearings are held after your return to a federal institution. Such institutional hearings are held within 90 days from the time you were taken into custody on the basis of the Commission's warrant.

If there are sufficient reasons to do so, the Commission may order your revocation hearing held in your own community or in the community where you were arrested. You will be entitled to such a hearing only if you deny that you violated any of the conditions of release and if you were not convicted of a crime while under supervision. If you request a local revocation hearing you must complete a form which will be provided to you for that purpose. There is a penalty for false answers on this form, and a denial of violation must be honestly made. Local revocation hearings are generally held within 60 days from the date the Regional Commissioner finds "probable cause" that you violated parole or mandatory release.

50. May I have the Probation Officer, the Police Officer of anyone else who submitted information about me present at the revocation hearing?

You have the right to ask for such "adverse witnesses" at a local revocation hearing and they will be either invited or subpoenaed to appear unless the Commission feels they should not appear and has cause for not having them there. Witnesses may be cross-examined by you or your attorney. If the Commission finds that any such adverse witnesses should not appear, they may be asked to submit a statement instead, and you will be allowed to see such statement. You may also have voluntary witnesses appear at your hearing to testify on your behalf.

51. If my hearing is held in a Federal institution rather than locally, may I also have an attorney and witnesses?

Yes, except that you are not entitled to "adverse witnesses" at an institutional hearing.

52. If the Commission revokes my parole or mandatory release, do I get any credit on my sentence for the time I was under supervision?

Generally, if you are convicted of a new law violation you are not entitled to credit for any of the time you were under supervision unless you are serving a YCA or NARA commitment. You are also not entitled to credit for any time you intentionally failed to respond or report to your Probation Officer or after you absconded from your area and the Probation Officer did not know where you were living. For violation of any of the other non-criminal conditions, you generally will be credited for all of the time you were under supervision in the community.

53. If I am revoked rather than reinstated to supervision or if I am not reparoled immediately, how long must I serve before the Commission reviews my case again?

The Commission utilizes its guidelines to help in determining the length of time you should serve. The guidelines are the same ones used for inmates who apply for their initial parole hearings. Decisions, of course, can be made above or below the guidelines for good cause.

54. If I have more questions, whom do I ask?

While you are in the institution, talk with your Case Manager or counselor. After you are released, contact your Probation Officer.