Parole is supervised release from prison. The parole board may grant parole to a prisoner who has served a portion of his sentence. That means that the convict is permitted to leave the prison but not entirely as a free man; he will be supervised by a parole officer and charged with keeping many conditions of parole. If he fails to live up to the conditions of parole, his parole can be revoked after a revocation of parole hearing and he may be returned to prison.
What Is Parole?
When a convict is serving her state prison sentence, she might be, at some point, eligible for release on parole. When she becomes eligible depends on her crime, her sentence and her behavior in prison. Good behavior can make a person eligible much more quickly than she would otherwise be.
The question of whether she will be released on parole is made by a parole board who must determine whether the convict poses too great a risk to public safety to be released. If she is released on parole, she must agree to supervision and to keep certain conditions of parole. She will be outside of the prison walls but still under the control of the California Department of Corrections.
Read More: How to Fight a Parole Board Decision
The Purpose of Parole
Parole is intended to be a time when a person has a chance to break the bad habits or behaviors that brought him to court in the first place and to reintegrate into society. During parole, the parolee's behavior is supervised by a parole officer to be sure he is following the conditions of his parole.
Typically, some conditions of parole are fairly standard, including agreeing to searches by law enforcement at any time without probable cause. And all parolees must avoid breaking any laws.
Other conditions of parole are crime-specific. For example:
- Someone convicted of selling drugs to a minor might be ordered to stay away from school grounds.
- Someone convicted of a gang crime might have to agree to stay away from gang members.
- Someone convicted of a gun crime might have to agree not to own or keep a gun.
Parole Revocation Hearing
Sometimes a parolee is picked up by law enforcement for committing another offense, or her parole officer reports that she missed scheduled meetings or tested positive for drugs. These events indicate that she is not keeping the conditions of parole and can trigger a parole revocation hearing.
The parolee is taken into custody for the alleged parole violation on a "parole hold." This hold remains in effect until the parolee wins the probation revocation hearing or is returned to jail.
In some states, the parole revocation hearing may be initiated by a document called a motion to revoke parole, while the procedures in other states differ. In California, the parole revocation hearing occurs before a deputy commissioner, not the parole board, but the procedures are set by the Board of Parole Hearings. The job of the deputy commissioner is to determine whether the parolee should be returned to prison.
The Revocation Hearing Process
In California, a parole revocation hearing is actually two hearings. The first determines whether there is probable cause to hold a final parole revocation hearing, that is, whether there is probable cause to believe that the parolee violated her parole. If the parolee wins the first hearing, there is no second hearing. If she loses the first hearing, she proceeds to the second one.
In many states, parole hearings are considered administrative, and the parolee does not have full due process rights. In California, she is afforded some due process rights. At both hearings, for example, she has the right to an attorney, the right to know what she is charged with and the right to see evidence against her. She also has the right to tell her side of the story and offer evidence supporting her case, the right to cross-examine witnesses against her, and to receive a written decision when the hearing is done.
Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.