USDOJ: USPC: Answering Your Questions

skip to content



Answering Your Questions

What is Parole?

When someone is paroled, they serve part of their sentence under the supervision of their community. The law says that the U.S. 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.

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. While in the community, supervision will be oriented toward reintegrating the offender as a productive member of society.

How does the Commission determine if someone is eligible for Parole?

A criminal offender becomes eligible for parole according to the type of sentence received from the court. The "parole eligibility date" is the earliest time the offender might be paroled. If the Parole Commission decides to grant parole, it will set the date of release, but the date must be on or after the "eligibility" date.

The process begins at sentencing. Unless the court has specified a minimum time for the offender to serve, or has imposed an "indeterminate" type of sentence, parole eligibility occurs upon completion of one-third of the term. If an offender is serving a life sentence or a term or terms of 30 years or more he or she will become eligible for parole after 10 years.

How does one apply for parole?

To apply for parole, the offender has to fill out and sign an application furnished by a case manager. Everyone except those committed under juvenile delinquency procedures who wish to be considered for parole must complete a parole application.

In some instances, the offender may not wish to apply for parole – if this is the case, the offender is provided a waiver as opposed to an application.

How is one notified of hearings?

A case manager notifies the offender when his or her parole hearing is scheduled. The initial hearing will usually take place within a few months after arrival at the institution. The only exception to this rule is if the offender is serving a minimum term of ten years or more, in which case the initial hearing will be scheduled six month prior to the completion of ten years.

What happens at a parole hearing?

A parole hearing is an opportunity for the offender to present his or her side of the story, and express their own thoughts as to why they feel they should be paroled. Many subjects come up during the course of the hearing. These typically include the details of the offense, prior criminal history, the guidelines which the Commission uses in making their determination, the offender’s accomplishments in the correctional facility, details of a release plan, and any problems the offender has had to meet in the past and is likely to face again in the future.

The Commission is interested in both the public safety as well as the needs of the individual.

When is a decision made about parole?

A Parole Examiner reviews the case file before the hearing occurs. A recommendation relative to parole is made at the conclusion of the hearing and in most instances the offender is notified of that recommendation. If a recommendation is not provided, the Examiner may refer the 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 a final decision is made. Usually it takes about 21 days for the offender to receive a Notice of Action advising them of the official decision.

Is it possible to appeal the parole decision?

Certainly. Within 30 days of the date on the Notice of Action, the offender may file an appeal with the National Appeals Board. Case Managers will have a copy of the form used for appeal. After receiving the appeal, the National Appeals Board may affirm, reverse or modify the Commission’s decision, or may order a new hearing. A decision by the National Appeals Board is final.

Decisions granting or denying parole for prisoners sentenced under the District of Columbia Code may not be appealed to the Commission. D.C. offenders may appeal decisions revoking their parole or supervised release.

What kind of job can a parolee get?

In most cases, any legitimate employment is normally acceptable. Full time work is preferable to part time work; work done continuously at one location is generally better than work in which it is necessary to travel. It is expected that the job will provide enough income to support dependents.

In some cases, the Parole Commission may prohibit certain types of employment. If, for example, the original offense behavior involved abuse of a certain occupational position and there might be a likelihood of further criminal conduct if returned to such employment, than that employment may be denied.

What does a parolee do if he or she has no home to go to?

The U.S. Parole Commission is interested in parolees 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 to the parolees – and the community’s – needs. There is no rigid rule that requires parolees to reside in their home, if they have one, or that they cannot be paroled if they do not.

If I have more questions, whom do I ask?

You may contact the U.S. Parole Commission by writing us at 90 K Street, NE, Third Floor, Washington, D.C. 20530. We would like to help you answer any further questions you may have.

Go to Further Questions and Answers

Updated January 12, 2015