When an inmate is up for parole or if you are the one seeking to be paroled from jail, it is useful to write a letter to the parole board offering information that will help board members make an informed decision. Your letter should include details about the sentence and the inmate's plans after parole so the parole review board clearly understands that, upon release, the former inmate will be a productive member of society. A well-written letter containing specific reasons why the inmate should be paroled, as well as details about past, present and future actions can increase the chance of release.
Properly Address the Letter
If you are writing a letter on your own behalf, begin with a heading that includes the date, your full name, the official name of the jail where you are serving your sentence, and the number assigned to you by the Department of Corrections. When you write a letter on behalf of a loved one, the heading should include the date, your name, address, phone number and email address. Skip down two lines and insert your subject line. If you are the inmate, your subject line should include your name, DOC number, and hearing date. When you are writing for someone else, use the same information in the subject line, but include the inmate's name directly above his DOC number.
You are writing a formal letter to appointed parole board members, therefore, a respectful way to begin the letter is, "Dear Honorable Members of the Parole Board." There are typically five members, who will have five different addresses. Ensure that each member receives their own copy of the letter.
Inmate Lifestyle Arrangements
One of the first questions the parole board members will have is where you (or, the inmate, if you are writing on another's behalf) are going to live. It is unacceptable to explain that you will just find a place to live after release. You must indicate specifically where and with whom the inmate will live once released. Also, explain whether he will depend on public transportation or if there is a car available. List the agencies the inmate will register with to make himself available for work. Inmates who acquired special skills while in jail may be able to put those to use post-release. If there is a job waiting for the inmate upon release, give details about the job, how the inmate obtained it, and the pay. If you are the inmate, it might be especially impressive if you include a budget for when you start earning money.
Parole Officer and Life Adjustments
Almost immediately upon release, you will meet with a parole officer, who will tell you to get a driver's license, or state ID. In addition, if your voting rights are restored, you will need to register to vote. Also, there are public assistance programs available to inmates who do not yet have a job, such as food stamps and assistance with public transportation. Show that you're a step ahead, if you want to strengthen your parole letter. Instead of waiting for your parole officer to direct you, explain in your parole letter how soon you intend to get your driver's license, ID and voter registration card, and what type of public assistance you will seek.
Briefly Revisit the Past
This section of your parole letter might be the toughest thing you ever have to write, whether it is for yourself or someone you believe deserves to be paroled from jail. Give a synopsis of the inmate's history, such as the circumstances that led to the crime. Avoid diverting blame for the crime – accept responsibility and show the rehabilitative efforts you made while incarcerated. If you are writing on an inmate's behalf, you probably have knowledge of the inmate's character and history. Include a short description in the letter, but do not try to portray the inmate as an innocent angel. Spend less than a paragraph describing the past. If you have completed a GED while incarcerated, include that in your letter, plus any other accomplishments. Likewise, if you participate in support groups within the jail, describe your role and the learnings from that role. On the other hand, if your incarceration record is blemished and you got in trouble for misconduct, treat that like your past. Explain why without diverting blame and describe the lessons you learned.
Look at the Present and Future
Use slightly more space to discuss your present and future plans, but don't belabor the point. Be succinct, yet genuine and specific. Describe your physical, emotional and mental state of mind to support your post-release plans. If you are writing a parole letter for a loved one, do not guess about this; ask the inmate how he or she feels about being released. A truthful explanation is what the parole board wants. If you are ambivalent or anxious about being released, admit it, and explain what you will do to overcome the anxiety or fear of being released. Importantly, you must convey that you are rehabilitated, and that your intention is to never return to a life of crime. The parole board will not be impressed by empty promises, therefore, this section must truthfully reflect your feelings. If you think you will need help, tell the parole board where you will seek help for your issues.
When you are satisfied with your parole letter, put it aside for a few hours or overnight before you proofread it. Check for spelling and grammar. When the letter looks good, address copies to each board member and write your return address on the envelope. On the back of the envelope, reference the inmate's name, DOC number and hearing date. Make sure the parole board members receive the letter at least two to four weeks before the hearing to ensure plenty of time for them to read and review.