This information is taken verbatim from the U.S. Department Of Justice.
U.S. Department of Justice
AN OVERVIEW OF THE UNITED STATES PAROLE COMMISSION
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
JOHN ASHCROFT, ATTORNEY GENERAL
UNITED STATES PAROLE COMMISSION
MICHAEL J. GAINES, CHAIRMAN
EDWARD F. REILLY,JR., COMMISSIONER
JOHN R. SIMPSON, COMMISSIONER
The mission of the United States Parole Commission is to exercise its authority regarding the release and supervision of offenders under its jurisdiction in a way that promotes justice. In making its decisions, the Commission must take into account the need for just punishment, the offender's risk of recidivism, and the offender's conduct in the institution. Its guiding principle is to apply the least restrictive sanction consistent with just punishment and the protection of the public. The Commission carries out its mission through the conscientious application of its guidelines and policies to each case, tempered by a willingness to give due regard to individual circumstances. The Commission considers information from various sources including, but not limited to, the presentence report, the victim of the offense, the sentencing judge, the prosecutor, prison officials, as well as the offender.
The United States Board of Parole was created by Congress in 1930. In 1976, the Parole Commission and Reorganization Act (Public Law 94-233) retitled the agency as the United States Parole Commission. The Commission, an independent agency within the Department of Justice, has parole release jurisdiction over all eligible federal prisoners and supervisory jurisdiction over federal prisoners who are released on parole or as if on parole (mandatory release).
The Commission is responsible for the parole functions pertaining to eligible federal prisoners confined and all federal parolees and mandatory releases. Hearing examiners conduct parole hearings with eligible federal prisoners. They also conduct revocation hearings for alleged parole or mandatory release violators.
Field supervision of released prisoners is provided by United States Probation Officers, who are employed by the United States District Courts. United States Probation Officers function as parole officers for parolees and mandatory releases, monitoring and reporting their activities to the Commission.
Policies and procedures are determined by the Commission at quarterly or special meetings of the Commissioners. Rules and regulations are published in the Federal Register of the United States as part of the Code of Federal Regulations. These regulations are set forth at 28 C.F.R. §2.1-2.67. The Chairman, as the Commission's Chief Executive Officer, is responsible for the management of the Commission.
A prisoner serving a sentence of more than one year who committed his/her offense prior to November 1, 1987, is eligible for parole consideration by the Parole Commission, unless sentenced under a statute expressly prohibiting eligibility for parole.
In addition, the Parole Commission has ongoing responsibility for certain cases even if the defendant committed his/her offense on or after November 1, 1987. These are:
The Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 abolished parole eligibility for federal offenders who commit offenses on or after November 1, 1987. It also provided for the abolition of the United States Parole Commission on November 1, 1992. However, when the Congress provided for the abolition of the Parole Commission, it failed to make adequate provision for persons sentenced under the law in effect prior to November 1, 1987, who had not completed their prison terms by the phase-out date. Elimination or reduction of parole eligibility for such cases would raise serious ex post facto clause issues. Therefore, the Judicial Improvements Act of 1990 extended the Commission an additional five years (until November 1, 1997) to handle "old law" cases. The Parole Commission Phaseout Act of 1996 again extended the Parole Commission for an additional five years (until November 1, 2002) for the same reason. In addition, the Parole Commission Phaseout Act of 1996 requires the Attorney General to report to Congress yearly, commencing in May 1998, as to whether it is most cost-effective for the Parole Commission to remain a separate agency or whether its functions (and personnel) should be assigned elsewhere. If the Attorney General recommends incorporating the Parole Commission's functions in another component of the Department of Justice, the Attorney General's plan shall take effect in November of the year in which it is submitted, unless Congress by law provides otherwise. If the parole functions are transferred pursuant to this provision, they will continue as long as necessary without respect to the November l, 2002, expiration date provided elsewhere in the legislation. The Act also reinstates the twelve-year limitation on service as a Parole Commissioner contained in the Parole Commission and Reorganization Act of 1976, and provides for the reduction in the number of Commissioners to two Commissioners on December 31, 1999, and to one Commissioner on December 31, 2001.
D. Parole Commission Procedures.
To establish a national paroling policy, promote a more consistent exercise of discretion, and enable fairer and more equitable decision making, the United States Parole Commission has developed explicit parole release guidelines. The guidelines, published at 28 C.F.R. §§2.20 and 2.21 describe the customary range of time to be served before release for various combinations of offense (severity) and offender (parole prognosis) characteristics. The time ranges specified by the guidelines are for cases with good institutional behavior. Decisions may be made outside of the applicable guideline range (either above or below), but only for good cause and upon the provision of specific written reasons. Thus, the guidelines structure discretion while retaining the ability to take into account the circumstances of individual cases.
All eligible prisoners, except those with a minimum term of ten years or more, receive an initial parole hearing within 120 days of commitment (or as soon thereafter as practicable) and are provided with a presumptive parole release date based upon the applicable parole release guidelines. The purpose of this procedure is to give the prisoner, at the beginning of his/her service of sentence, a date on which it is presumed that release will take place, provided that the prisoner maintains a good institutional conduct record and has developed adequate release plans. The procedure is designed to remove much of the dysfunctional uncertainty and anxiety surrounding traditional parole practice, while at the same time retaining the flexibility to deal with substantial changes in circumstances.
In addition, interim hearings are scheduled subsequent to the initial decision as required by statute to consider whether there are substantial positive or negative changes in circumstances that may warrant modifying the presumptive date originally set. Following an interim hearing, the Commission may advance a presumptive parole date, but only for sustained superior program achievement or for other clearly exceptional circumstances. It is the intent of the Commission to encourage meaningful voluntary program participation, not superficial attendance in programs merely in an attempt to impress the parole decision makers. Therefore, advances for superior program achievement are deliberately kept modest. Guidelines for such decisions are set forth at 28 C.F.R. § 2.60.
A pre-release record review is conducted prior to each presumptive parole date to determine whether the conditions for a presumptive release have been satisfied. Parole may be retarded for up to 120 days for development and approval of release plans. Similarly, minor infractions of institutional rules may be handled on the record by retarding the release date for up to 90 days. When substantial misconduct or disciplinary infractions exist, the Commission may order a rescission hearing at which a previously determined presumptive release date may be rescinded or retarded. Decisions to rescind or retard parole are sanctions employed by the Commission to assist the Bureau of Prisons in the maintenance of institutional discipline. These sanctions also uphold the integrity of the condition that a parole date is contingent upon the prisoner's continued good conduct. Guidelines for such decisions are set forth at 28 C.F.R. §2.36.
A prisoner who is dissatisfied with the decision rendered by the Commission may file an appeal within thirty days from the date on the official Notice of Action. The National Appeals Board may affirm, modify, or reverse the decision. Decisions of the National Appeals Board are final.
Prisoners sentenced for violations of the District of Columbia Code who are confined in Bureau of Prisons facilities are considered for release by the Parole Commission pursuant to District of Columbia parole procedures. Parolees and mandatory releasees must adhere to a set of general conditions of release that are designed to protect the public welfare and ensure adequate supervision. Among the conditions are that the releasee not violate any federal, state, or local law; not leave a certain fixed geographical area or change place of residence or employment without notifying the probation officer; not associate with any person engaged in criminal activity or who has a criminal record; and make a diligent effort to work regularly, support legal dependents, and satisfy any outstanding fine, restitution order, or court ordered child support or alimony payment. In addition to general conditions, special conditions may be imposed in specific cases (for example, a requirement for drug counseling and testing for a releasee with a history of drug abuse). Violation of a condition of supervision may result in revocation of supervision and return to prison.