Although there is no constitutional right to parole, a protected liberty interest can be created by the statutes governing parole in a certain jurisdiction[i]. There are certain factors that affect the grant and denial of parole. It is to be noted that mere eligibility for parole will not entitle a prisoner to parole.
The Parole Commission is vested with the power to grant and deny the parole of any eligible federal prisoner. Similarly, the Parole Commission is empowered to apply the guidelines in parole release decisions and to grant or deny parole if there is a good cause for doing so[ii]. However, a recommendation from a sentencing judge cannot force the Parole Commission to grant an individual parole. The recommendation merely serves as a factor the Parole Commission must consider before deciding whether to grant or deny parole[iii].
An inmate will not be eligible for parole until reaching his/her release eligibility date. The release eligibility date is the earliest date an inmate convicted of a felony is eligible for parole and such date will be conditioned on the good behavior of the inmate while in prison. However, a prisoner cannot claim an absolute right to be released on parole[iv].
It is to be noted that the state parole board procedures and decisions are subject to federal judicial review. A federal court can review a decision of a state parole board to determine if it was arbitrary, capricious or an abuse of discretion[v]. However, due process requires the parole board to provide an applicant whose parole was denied with a statement of reasons that includes both the grounds for the denial and the essential facts on which those grounds are based[vi].
Generally, the Parole Commission must consider the circumstances and nature of the offense in determining whether to grant parole. However, the Parole Commission is not limited to the consideration of formally adjudicated crimes and is entitled to consider information from prosecutors and other parties when making its determinations regarding the release of prisoners[vii].
It is to be noted that the conduct of a prisoner is taken into account while considering him/her for parole. However, a prisoner is not placed on parole only as a reward for good conduct or efficient performance of duties assigned in prison.
In order to warrant a grant of parole, an investigation by the parole authority must disclose that the applicant for parole will live and conduct himself/herself as a respectable and law abiding person, and that his/her release will be compatible with his/her own welfare and that of society. The parole authority is empowered to deny parole if it concludes that release is incompatible with the welfare of society[viii].
Therefore, the parole authority must consider the institutional record of an inmate, vocational education, training or work assignments, therapy, performance in any temporary release program, release plans, any deportation order issued by the federal government, and the written statement of the crime victim or the victim’s representative, if the crime victim is deceased or is mentally or physically incapacitated[ix].
It is to be noted that information such as age of the prisoner, his/her prior associations, habits, inclinations and traits of character, the probability of the prisoner’s reformation and the interests of public security are also taken into consideration[x]. A parole authority must also look into factors such as the nature of the crime committed, prior criminal record of the prisoner if any, intoxication at the time of commission of a crime.
[i] Parker v. Corrothers, 750 F.2d 653 (8th Cir. Ark. 1984).
[ii] Priore v. Nelson, 626 F.2d 211 (2d Cir. Conn. 1980).
[iii] Laivinieks v. True, 1994 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 2574 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 3, 1994).
[iv] Horton v. Parole Eligibility Review Bd., 2000 Tenn. App. LEXIS 701 (Tenn. Ct. App. Oct. 20, 2000).
[v] Schuemann v. Colorado State Board of Adult Parole, 624 F.2d 172 (10th Cir. Colo. 1980).
[vi] Heirens v. Mizell, 729 F.2d 449 (7th Cir. Ill. 1984).
[vii] Moore v. Holt, 16 Fed. Appx. 902 (10th Cir. Colo. 2001).
[viii] Silmon v. Travis, 95 N.Y.2d 470 (N.Y. 2000).
[ix] Walker v. New York State Div. of Parole, 203 A.D.2d 757 (N.Y. App. Div. 3d Dep’t 1994).
[x] In re Troglin, 51 Cal. App. 3d 434 (Cal. App. 1st Dist. 1975).