A parolee can get their California parole discharge papers when their parole term ends. The term discharge means that the former offender is no longer on parole. The parolee can obtain a discharge certificate by sending a written request to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, P.O. Box 942883, Sacramento, California 94283.
Process of Discharge Review
The Board of Parole Hearings (BPH) is the entity that engages in discharge review. When an offender is entitled to a presumptive discharge date (PDD) by law, the BPH conducts a discharge review hearing within 30 days of the parolee's PDD. The BPH determines whether it will give the offender an early discharge based on the report of the parole agent. A report from a parole agent makes a recommendation for or against letting the individual off parole early.
Difference Between Parole and Probation
Probation and parole are different types of community supervision rather than time spent in a county jail or state prison. Probation is basically a suspended sentence. The court informs a convicted offender that they must serve a certain number of days in a correctional facility. The court also states whether the offender will be released into the community on probation, how long they will be on probation, and the type of probation they must serve.
General Rules of Probation
Informal probation, also known as court probation or summary probation, is unsupervised probation, and formal probation is supervised. An offender on formal probation must report to a county, state or federal probation officer. Offenders on both informal and formal probation must abide by certain restrictions, such as paying restitution to a victim or family members – monies they are owed as a result of the offender’s wrongful acts. An offender who successfully completes their term of probation will have their case closed.
If the offender fails to abide by the restrictions set by the court or their probation officer, they violate their probation. They will then have to attend a violation of probation (VOP) hearing. If the court finds that the offender violated their probation, they could serve the maximum term of their sentence.
General Rules to be Released on Parole
In contrast, an offender is granted parole by the BPH after serving a certain portion of their sentence in prison. A person who is serving a life sentence must serve the determinate part of their sentence – the portion of the sentence of specified length before becoming eligible for parole. For example, if an offender’s sentence was 25 years to life, the offender must first serve 25 years of their prison term before becoming eligible for parole.
Parole is a form of early release that the court did not order in its original sentence. An offender is eligible for a parole period if they meet certain criteria. According to California Penal Code Section 2933, the first requirement is serving half of the sentence. An inmate is not eligible for parole after serving half of their sentence if they committed a serious or violent felony, including rape, robbery, arson, burglary or kidnapping. The person who has been released is assigned to a state parole officer, who requires them to abide by certain restrictions.
California Medical Parole
The different types of parole include standard parole, medical parole, elderly parole and youth offender parole. The BPH considers a wide variety of factors when deciding whether to discharge an inmate from parole.
Medical parole, described in California Penal Code Section 3550, requires the head physician of the institution where the prisoner is located to determine that the prisoner is permanently medically incapacitated with a medical condition or disability that renders the prisoner permanently unable to perform activities of basic daily living. The BPH then considers the conditions under which the prisoner would be released so that the prisoner would not reasonably pose a threat to public safety.
California Elderly Parole
Elderly parole is suitable for elderly offenders, meaning inmates 50 years and older who have been incarcerated for at least 20 continuous years. The BPH must find a reasonable likelihood that consideration of the public and victim’s safety does not require the offender to remain incarcerated. Inmates sentenced to fixed terms and those sentenced to life with the possibility of parole are eligible for the Elderly Parole Program.
At an elderly parole hearing, the BPH gives special consideration to the inmate’s age, long-term confinement and diminished physical condition, if any. The BPH’s forensic clinical psychologists also take these factors into consideration when they prepare risk assessments for such hearings. An inmate granted parole at an elderly parole hearing will be eligible for release immediately after the BPH’s decision is final. Finalizing the decision can take up to five months.
California Youthful Offender Parole
Youthful offender parole is for an inmate who was under 26 years of age at the time of their offense. An offender sentenced to life without the possibility of parole who was under 18 at the time of their controlling offense will also be scheduled for a youth offender parole hearing. The BPH must give great weight to the diminished responsibility of juveniles as compared with adults.
Conditions of Parole
An offender who is discharged from parole is no longer required to abide by the same restrictions they did as when they were on parole. This does not mean the offender is free to do anything they want. An offender is bound by their criminal history, so for example, if they are a convicted felon, they have permanently lost certain freedoms, including the privilege of owning a firearm.
The typical conditions of parole that a discharged offender no longer is required to follow include: not having to have their person, residence or possessions searched any time of the day or night, with or without a warrant or a reason, by a parole agent or law enforcement officer. A discharged offender no longer has to tell their parole agent about new employment or request a travel pass before leaving the county of residence for multiple days or leaving the state. A discharged offender no longer has to immediately tell their former parole agent if they get arrested or get a traffic or parking ticket.
Attending a Parole Hearing
Victims who want to determine their eligibility to attend an inmate’s parole hearing must register with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s (CDCR’s) Office of Victim & Survivor Rights and Services. A victim must request both notice and an opportunity to attend such a hearing. A victim may also request notice of an inmate’s release from this office.
Proposition 57 and Parole Supervision
Proposition 57, which was approved in the state of California on November 2016, allowed the CDCR to increase the number of inmates who could be considered for parole to those individuals who were convicted of nonviolent crimes. Prop. 57 allowed the BPH to review eligible inmates to see if they pose a current, unreasonable risk of violence or significant criminal activity. If they do not, the BPH can determine whether the offenders should be approved for parole release and supervised in the community. Prop. 57 increased the likelihood that a higher number of convicted nonviolent offenders would become eligible for discharge.
- California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation: Parolee Handbook
- California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation: Sentencing, Incarceration & Parole of Offenders
- California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation: Non‑Revocable Parole Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) Sheet
- California Penal Code: Section 3550, Medical Parole
- California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation: Elderly Parole Hearings
- California Penal Code: Section 2933, Credit on Term of Imprisonment
- California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation: Proposition 57: The Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016 Frequently Asked Questions
Jessica Zimmer is a journalist and attorney based in northern California. She has practiced in a wide variety of fields, including criminal defense, property law, immigration, employment law, and family law.