People who have been convicted of certain crimes with long sentences may become eligible for parole at some point while serving their sentence. This can depend on many factors, such as continued good behavior while imprisoned, the nature of the crime, evidence or information that comes out about the crime after the sentencing, and more. Parole has strict rules that must be followed, and if these rules are not followed, parole can be revoked.
What is Parole?
Parole provides freedom for prison inmates with certain conditions in the hopes of allowing them to start a new, temporarily supervised life. If parole is granted, a prison inmate can return to their community and serve whatever time remains in their sentence while being supervised by a parole officer. The cap on the duration of a parole sentence usually matches the original sentence. For example, if someone is sentenced to 20 years in prison, then they may be on and off parole for up to 20 years. Each state has a Parole Board which makes the final decisions about granting or revoking parole.
Who is Eligible for Parole?
Eligibility for parole is dependent on a handful of different factors. If a prisoner is serving a sentence where parole is a possibility and that prisoner has decided to seek parole, they will need to present their case to the Parole Board. In South Carolina, the Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services, also known as DPPPS, has most of the oversight regarding parole regulations. The parole board will take many factors into consideration when reviewing a case, including but not limited to:
- The nature of the inmate’s conviction (whether it was violent, drug related, etc.)
- When the sentencing took place
- Records of how the inmate behaved while serving their sentence
- The inmate’s personal history
- Any statements from the victim regarding parole for the inmate (whether the victim fears the parolee, if there are protections in place for the victim, etc.)
Providing the board with a strong case for your release on parole is one of the most important aspects of seeking parole. Inmates can present their cases to the board themselves, however, many elect to have the assistance of an experienced lawyer that has prior experience working on parole hearings.
Some examples of evidence many inmates bring for their parole hearings include personal statements about their lives before prison, information and proof regarding what they have done in prison (such as any educational or vocational certificates or degrees, jobs they have held, volunteer activities they have been a part of, etc.), what they have planned for when they are released on parole, and more. Some inmates also include letters of support from their community members that show they will have support from people outside of the prison in their transition from incarceration to freedom.
If the parole board decides not to grant a parole request, the inmate can appeal their decision, so long as it is done within a specific time window. Appealing their decision may be a wise choice if new information arises afterwards or if you discover that procedural errors took place during the first hearing.
What is Being on Parole Like?
Once parole is granted and an inmate is allowed to leave the prison, they become subject to strict rules and requirements that must be followed. A parolee may have one of the following two statuses:
- Active status: Parolees on active status are assigned a parole officer they must check in with. Parole officers can assist parolees in many ways, such as developing a plan for the parolee, assisting them in following the conditions provided to them, monitoring and evaluating them, etc.
- Inactive status: Parolees on inactive status do not need to report to a parole officer. Someone may be placed on inactive status because they have met all of their parole conditions prior to the completion of their parole sentence.
While on parole, former inmates must meet certain standards and adhere to a specific rule set outlined for them when parole is granted. These rules are specific to each individual, however, there are some conditions that most parolees can expect to adhere to:
- Having a home plan: Parolees usually have to provide the board with an expected residence, and a list of other people who will be present in the home.
- Maintaining employment: Most parolees must remain employed or must be actively seeking employment for the duration of their parole period.
- Maintaining sobriety: If a person is on parole, they will be banned from using drugs and, in some cases, from using alcohol. This can be monitored through mandatory drug testing.
- Avoiding contact with other people convicted of felonies: Although there is some controversy around this, many parolees are not allowed to be in contact with other people convicted of felonies because there is a risk that they will be convinced to violate their parole or get into trouble.
- Staying in place: Parolees are often subject to orders requiring them to request permission before leaving a designated area, usually the state in which they live.
- Attending recovery meetings: Many parolees, specifically those convicted of drug related crimes, must attend recovery meetings such as Alcoholics Anonymous as part of their recovery and parole.
What Happens if I Violate Parole?
If you violate parole in South Carolina, there is a good chance you will have to face the parole board again so they can decide on the appropriate punishment for the violation. The board may decide to revoke your parole and send you back to prison to complete your sentence or allow you to continue with parole and less lenient conditions. If you violate parole, you do not have the option of requesting a jury trial.
Unfortunately, violating parole can be easy, unfortunately. The conditions that are placed on parole sentences are usually quite strict, and since you have already been convicted of a crime, the standard to prove your guilt in a parole violation trial is much lower. Parole is considered an “act of grace” in the courts because prisoners are provided no protections during parole hearings. Being represented by an experienced and dedicated attorney during such hearings can make a big difference in the outcome.
Contact an Attorney Today
If you have been accused of violating your parole or if you are seeking more information about the parole process, contact Masella Law today. With decades of experience working criminal defense cases, we have the expertise and compassion to help you with your case. We understand that the possibility of parole and parole hearings are not to be taken lightly, as the results can be life changing for parolees and their loved ones. Therefore, we work all cases with compassion and the understanding that there is a person behind the sentence. Contact us today at (803) 938-4952 or via our contact page.