How Parole Works

Eligible federal prisoners serving sentences of less than 30 years who have committed offenses prior to November of 1987 may, through an application process, receive an initial parole hearing within 120 days of commitment to a federal institution. Federal prisoners serving sentences of 30 years or more, and all DC Code prisoners, regardless of the length of their sentence, may receive a parole hearing within 9 months of their parole eligibility date as determined by the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Prisoners who apply for parole are provided with a parole release decision based upon the appropriate paroling release guidelines, which are formatted in a manner that reduces disparity in release decisions and therefore promotes respect for the system. Following each hearing, the Parole Commission will issue a written decision and which informs the prisoner of the release decision and the next hearing date if applicable.

A pre-release record review is conducted prior to each inmate's release date to determine whether the prisoner has maintained a satisfactory institution record, and met the required conditions for release.

Prisoners are notified of all hearing decisions through a Notice of Action. Federal offenders who feel they have been treated unfairly by the Commission's decision are entitled to an appeal within 30 days of receiving the Notice of Action. This appeal prompts a second Parole Commission review, by the National Appeals Board.

Federal prisoners released on parole or mandatory release must report to a designated United States Probation/Parole Officer for supervision. Parolees must adhere to a set of conditions "in some circumstances, case-specific conditions" that are designed to protect public safety and ensure adequate supervision. Released D.C. offenders are under the supervision of the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency.

When the Parole Commission is notified that a parolee has violated the conditions of release, the Commission issues an arrest warrant and the violator is promptly returned to custody for a hearing on the allegations with possible return to prison for the remainder of his or her sentence.

If the sentencing court has ordered that a defendant pay restitution or a fine to the victim(s), the U.S. Parole Commission can establish the repayment of this restitution as a condition of parole or supervised release. However, the Commission cannot order restitution that was not originally ordered by the Court at sentencing. Many Inmates begin paying fines and restitution during their incarceration as part of the Bureau of Prison's Inmate Responsibility Program.

Updated December 21, 2021

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