In Louisiana, laws relating to pardon and parole can be found in Chapter 5, Title 15 of Louisiana statutes.
Pursuant to La. R.S. 15:572, the governor may grant reprieves to persons convicted of offenses against the state and, upon recommendation of the Board of Pardons, may commute sentences, pardon those convicted of offenses against the state, and remit fines and forfeitures imposed for such offenses. However, the governor must not grant any pardon to any person unless that person has paid all of the court costs which were imposed in connection with the conviction of the crime for which the pardon is to be issued.
La. R.S. 15:572 provides that a first offender never previously convicted of a felony must be pardoned automatically upon completion of his or her sentence without a recommendation of the Board of Pardons and without action by the governor.
La. R.S. 15:572 provides that on the day that an individual completes his or her sentence the Division of Probation and Parole of the Department of Corrections, after satisfying itself that (1) the individual is a first offender and (2) the individual has completed his or her sentence must issue a certificate recognizing and proclaiming that the petitioner is fully pardoned for the offense, and that s/he has all rights of citizenship and franchise, and must transmit a copy of the certificate to the individual and to the clerk of court in and for the parish where the conviction occurred.
Board of Pardons
Pursuant to La. R.S. 15:572.1, the Board of Pardons consists of five electors, appointed by the governor to serve terms concurrent with the governor making the appointments, or until their successors are appointed and take office. The domicile of the board must be in the city of Baton Rouge, and the board must establish its office at its domicile, but may hold meetings at other places within the state. The board must meet on regularly scheduled dates determined by it, and at such other times as the chairman may determine are necessary for the purpose of reviewing and taking action on applications for pardons pending before it and to transact such other business as it deems necessary. The board must select a vice chairman from its membership and must select and fix the salary of an executive secretary, who need not be a member of the board, and who must serve at the pleasure of the board. All meetings of the board must be open to the public[i].
Pursuant to La. R.S. 15:572.3, in addition to the other powers, duties, and functions, the board may:
1) Adopt rules and regulations necessary to carry out its duties and functions in connection therewith.
2) Employ a staff, including such administrative, clerical and legal personnel, and other professional personnel with training or past experience in criminology or related fields such as sociology, psychology, or psychiatry, as it finds are necessary to effectuate its purposes, powers, and duties.
3) Do such other things as are necessary to carry out its powers, duties, and functions.
4) Sanction the applicant’s disorderly, threatening, or insolent behavior, or use of insulting, abusive, or obscene language or written communication in connection with the application before the board.
Board of Parole
Pursuant to La. R.S. 15:574.2, a board of parole is created in the Department of Public Safety and Corrections. The board consists of seven members appointed by the governor, one of whom is the chairman of the board. The domicile of the board must be in the parish of East Baton Rouge, city of Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
La. R.S. 15:574.2 provides that the board meets in a minimum of three-member panels at the adult correctional institutions on regular scheduled dates, not less than every three months. Three votes of a three-member panel must be required to grant parole, or, if the number exceeds a three-member panel, a unanimous vote of those present is required to grant parole. No person convicted of a crime of violence against any peace officer must be granted parole except after a meeting, duly noticed and held on a date to be determined by the chairman, at which at least five of the seven members of the board are present and all members present vote to grant parole.
Pursuant to La. R.S. 15:574.2, the Board of Parole has the following powers and duties:
1) To determine the time and conditions of release on parole of any person who has been convicted of a felony and sentenced to imprisonment, and confined in any penal or correctional institution in this state.
2) To determine and impose sanctions for violation of the conditions of parole.
3) To keep a record of its acts and to notify each institution of its decisions relating to the persons who are or have been confined therein.
4) To transmit annually, on or before the first day of February, a report to the secretary of public safety and corrections, for inclusion in his report to the governor, which report shall include statistical and other data with respect to the determinations and work of the board for the preceding calendar year, research studies which the board may make of sentencing, parole, or related functions, and may include a recommendation of legislation to further improve the parole system of Louisiana.
5) To apply to a district court to issue subpoenas, compel the attendance of witnesses, and the production of books, papers, and other documents pertinent to the subject of its inquiry; to take testimony under oath, either at a hearing or by deposition; and to pay all costs in connection with the board hearings.
6) To consider all pertinent information with respect to each prisoner who is incarcerated in any penal or correctional institution in Louisiana at least one month prior to the parole eligible date and thereafter at such other intervals as it may determine, which information must be a part of the inmate’s consolidated summary record and which must include:
a) The circumstances of his offense.
b) The reports filed under Articles 875 and 876 of the Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure.
c) His previous social history and criminal record.
d) His conduct, employment, and attitude in prison.
e) His participation in vocational training, adult education, literacy, or reading programs.
f) Any reports of physical and mental examinations which have been made.
7) To adopt such rules not inconsistent with law as it deems necessary and proper, with respect to the eligibility of prisoners for parole, and to the conditions imposed on persons released on parole.
8. When requested, to notify the chief of police, where such exists, and the sheriff and district attorney of the parish where the individual resides and the conviction occurred. The notification must be in writing and must be issued at least seven days prior to the release of any parolees residing within the jurisdiction of the agency.
9) To notify the victim, or the spouse or next of kin of a deceased victim, when the offender is scheduled for a parole hearing. The notice must advise the victim, or the spouse or next of kin of a deceased victim, of their rights with regard to the hearing. The notice is not required when the victim, or the spouse or next of kin of a deceased victim, advises the board in writing that such notification is not desired. The victim, or the spouse or next of kin of a deceased victim, must be allowed to testify at the hearing. The victim, or the spouse or next of kin of a deceased victim, must be allowed to testify directly, or in rebuttal to testimony or evidence offered by or on behalf of the offender, or both.
10) To adopt rules and regulations to encourage voluntary participation by inmates committed to the Department of Public Safety and Corrections in vocational training, adult education, literacy, and reading programs, through programs established by the department.
11) To sanction the applicant’s disorderly, threatening, or insolent behavior, or use of insulting, abusive, or obscene language or written communication in connection with the application before the board. A decision to sanction may result in the immediate and unfavorable termination of the proceedings and the applicant’s right to make future application for parole may be suspended for not more than two years.
12) To adopt such rules as it deems necessary and proper with respect to the conduct of parole hearings for the purpose of excluding any person or persons in order to protect the privacy of the victim or victims during parole hearings.
Eligibility for Parole
Pursuant to La. R.S. 15:574.4,, a person, otherwise eligible for parole, convicted of a first felony offense is eligible for parole consideration upon serving thirty-three and one-third of the sentence imposed; upon conviction of a second felony offense, such person is eligible for parole consideration upon serving one-half of the sentence imposed. A person convicted of a third or subsequent felony offense is not eligible for parole.
La. R.S. 15:574.4 provides that unless eligible for parole at an earlier date, a person committed to the Department of Public Safety and Corrections for a term or terms of imprisonment with or without benefit of parole for 30 years or more shall be eligible for parole consideration upon serving at least 20 years of the term or terms of imprisonment in actual custody and upon reaching the age of 45.
La. R.S. 15:574.4 provides that unless eligible for parole at an earlier date, a person committed to the Department of Public Safety and Corrections serving a life sentence for the production, manufacturing, distribution, or dispensing or possessing with intent to produce, manufacture, or distribute heroin shall be eligible for parole consideration upon serving at least 15 years of imprisonment in actual custody.
La. R.S. 15:574.4 provides that no person is eligible for parole consideration who has been convicted of armed robbery and denied parole eligibility. No prisoner serving a life sentence is eligible for parole consideration until his or her life sentence has been commuted to a fixed term of years. No prisoner sentenced as a serial sexual offender is eligible for parole. No prisoner may be paroled while there is pending against him or her any indictment or information for any crime suspected of having been committed by him while a prisoner. Notwithstanding any other provisions of law to the contrary, a person convicted of a crime of violence and not otherwise ineligible for parole must serve at least 85% of the sentence imposed, before being eligible for parole. The victim or victim’s family must be notified whenever the offender is to be released provided that the victim or victim’s family has completed a Louisiana victim notice and registration form or has otherwise provided contact information and has indicated to the Department of Public Safety and Corrections, Crime Victims Services Bureau, that they desire such notification.
La. R.S. 15:574.4 provides that at such intervals as it determines, the board or a member thereof must consider all pertinent information with respect to each prisoner eligible for parole, including the nature and circumstances of the prisoner’s offense, his or her prison records, the presentence investigation report, any recommendations of the chief probation and parole officer, and any information and reports of data supplied by the staff. A parole hearing must be held if, after such consideration, the board determines that a parole hearing is appropriate or if such hearing is requested in writing by its staff.
La. R.S. 15:574.4 provides that in cases where the offender has been convicted of, or where adjudication has been deferred or withheld for the perpetration or attempted perpetration of a violation of a sex offense and parole is permitted by law and the offender is otherwise eligible, the board must consider reports, assessments, and clinical information, as available, including any testing and recommendations by mental health professionals, as to all of the following:
i) Whether the offender has successfully completed the sex offender program.
ii) Whether, in the expert’s opinion, there is a likelihood that the offender will or will not repeat the criminal conduct and that the offender will or will not be a danger to society.
La. R.S. 15:574.4 provides that the parole hearings must be conducted in a formal manner in accordance with the rules formulated by the board. Before the parole of any prisoner is ordered, such prisoner must appear before and be interviewed by the board, except those incarcerated in parish prisons or parish correctional centers, in which case one board member may conduct the interview. The board may order a reconsideration of the case or a rehearing at any time.
La. R.S. 15:574.4 provides that the crime victim or the victim’s family, a victim advocacy group, and the district attorney or his representatives, may appear before the Board of Parole by means of telephone communication from the office of the local district attorney. The board must render its decision ordering or denying the release of the prisoner on parole within thirty days after the hearing. A parole must be ordered only for the best interest of society, not as an award of clemency, and upon determination by the board that there is reasonable probability that the prisoner is able and willing to fulfill the obligations of a law-abiding citizen so that s/he can be released without detriment to the community or to himself or herself.
Pursuant to La. R.S. 15:574.4, all paroles must issue upon order of the board and each order of parole must recite the conditions thereof; provided, however, that before any prisoner is released on parole he shall be provided with a certificate of parole that enumerates the conditions of parole. These conditions must be explained to the prisoner and the prisoner must agree in writing to such conditions. The release date of the prisoner must be fixed by the board, but such date must not be later than six months after the parole hearing or the most recent reconsideration of the prisoner’s case.
La. R.S. 15:574.4 provides that the board may also require, either at the time of his or her release on parole or at any time while he remains on parole, that s/he conform to any of the following conditions of parole which are appropriate to the circumstances of the particular case:
a) Report immediately to the division of probation and parole office, Department of Public Safety and Corrections, which is listed on the face of the certificate of parole.
b) Remain within the limits fixed by the certificate of parole. If s/he has good cause to leave these limits, s/he will obtain written permission from the parole officer and the approval of the division of probation and parole before doing so.
c) Between the first and fifth days of each month, until his or her final release, and also on the final day of his or her parole, make a full and truthful written report upon the form provided for that purpose and that s/he will take or mail his or her report to his or her parole officer. S/he will report to the probation and parole officer when directed to do so.
d) Avoid injurious or vicious habits and places of disreputable or harmful character.
e) Will not associate with persons known to be engaged in criminal activities or with persons known to have been convicted of a felony, without written permission of his or her parole officer.
f) In all respects conduct himself honorably, work diligently at a lawful occupation, and support his or her dependents, if any, to the best of his or her ability.
g) Promptly and truthfully answer all inquiries directed to him or her by the probation and parole officer.
h) Live and remain at liberty and refrain from engaging in any type of criminal conduct.
i) Live and work at the places stated in his or her parole plan and not change residence or employment until after s/he has permission to do so from his or her parole officer.
j) Must not have in his or her possession or control any firearms or dangerous weapons.
k) Submit himself or herself to available medical, psychiatric, mental health, or substance abuse examination or treatment or both when deemed appropriate and ordered to do so by the probation and parole officer.
l) Waive extradition to the state of Louisiana from any jurisdiction in or outside the United States where s/he may be found and also agree that s/he will not contest any effort by any jurisdiction to return him to the state of Louisiana.
m) Will be subject to visits by his or her parole officer at his or her home or place of employment without prior notice.
n) Such other specific conditions as are appropriate, stated directly and without ambiguity so as to be understandable to a reasonable man.
o) Defray the cost, or any portion thereof, of his or her parole supervision by making payments to the Board of Parole in a sum and manner determined by the board, based upon his ability to pay.
p) Perform at least 100 hours of unpaid community service work during the period of parole supervision and, if unemployed, perform additional hours as instructed by his or her supervising officers.
q) Devote himself or herself to an approved reading program at his or her cost if s/he is unable to read the English language.
r) Agree to searches of his or her person, his or her property, his or her place of residence, his or her vehicle, or hi or her personal effects, or any or all of them, at any time, by the probation officer or the parole officer assigned to him or her, with or without a warrant of arrest or with or without a search warrant, when the probation officer or the parole officer has reasonable suspicion to believe that the person who is on parole is engaged in or has been engaged in criminal activity since his or her release on parole.
Pursuant to La. R.S. 15:574.6, the parole term, when the board orders a prisoner released on parole, must be for the remainder of the prisoner’s sentence, without any diminution of sentence for good behavior. When the parolee has completed his or her full parole term, s/he must be discharged from parole by the Department of Public Safety and Corrections without order by the board, provided that:
1) No warrant has been issued by the board for the arrest of the parolee.
2) No detainer has been issued by the parole officer for the detention of the parolee pending revocation proceedings.
3) No indictment or bill of information is pending for any felony the parolee is suspected to have committed while on parole.
[i] La. R.S. 15:572.1.