Parole is a procedure by which a prisoner who must in any event be returned to society at some time in the future is allowed to serve the last portion of his/her sentence outside prison walls and under strict supervision, as preparation for his/her eventual return to society.
No prisoner is placed on parole merely as a reward for good conduct or efficient performance of duties assigned in prison[i]. Parole does not eliminate the crime or forgive the offender.
Parole is not an act of clemency, but a penological measure for the disciplinary treatment of prisoners who seem capable of rehabilitation outside of prison walls. It does not set aside or affect the sentence[ii].
The convict remains in the legal custody of the state and under the control of its agents, subject at any time, for breach of condition, to be returned to the penal institution. Neither is parole a commutation of sentence within the meaning of that term in the constitutional provision.
A person on parole remains subject to the sentence of commitment for the period of time specified by a court. Parole alters only the method and degree of confinement during the period of commitment[iii].
Parole is not freedom. A parolee is a convicted criminal who has been sentenced to a term of imprisonment and who has been allowed to serve a portion of that term outside prison walls[iv].
A parolee does not enjoy the absolute liberty to which every citizen is entitled, but only a conditional liberty properly dependent on the observance of special parole restrictions.
By statute, a parolee is in legal custody. While on parole the convict is bound to remain in the legal custody and under the control of the warden until the expiration of the term, less allowance, if any, for good conduct. While this is an amelioration of punishment, it is in legal effect imprisonment.
A parolee by virtue of his/her status is not thereby deprived of all protection against unreasonable searches and seizures and other invasions of constitutional rights. On the other hand, a parolee is not afforded the full constitutional protection enjoyed by ordinary citizens possessed of full civil rights, and a search of a parolee’s premises is not to be tested by the rules applicable to the latter[v].
[i] Sellers v. Bridges, 153 Fla. 586 (Fla. 1943)
[ii] Commonwealth ex rel. Banks v. Cain, 345 Pa. 581 (Pa. 1942)
[iii] People v. Williams, 66 Ill. 2d 179 (Ill. 1977)
[iv] United States v. Polito, 583 F.2d 48 (2d Cir. N.Y. 1978)
[v] State v. Williams, 486 S.W.2d 468 (Mo. 1972)