What is Parole?
Parole is the system to allow prisoners to be released prior to the end of their complete sentence. It is granted based upon a number of factors, including reports from prison and probation officers. Whether or not parole is granted also depends on the type and seriousness of offences which have been committed, the home situation of the prisoner, their plans for their life after release, behaviour whilst in prison, and other mitigating points.
When does Parole occur?
There are a number of rules governing when a prisoner is eligible to apply for parole, related to the type of offence, length of sentence and date of sentencing. A prisoner can actually make their application from six months prior to their date of eligibility. During this time they will have opportunity to see the reports on their behaviour and progress and make their own written statements explaining why they think they should be entitled to early release, what they plan to do upon their release and so on. They may be interviewed by a member of the parole board but this is not always required nowadays so this may not happen.
The Parole Board panel will consider the offender’s case roughly two months before the eligibility date, this is both to allow time for the deliberation and for the prisoner to prepare for release if their parole is granted. The main area of consideration is the risk to the public should a further offence be committed and the perceived likelihood of this occurring if the applicant is granted their parole and released.
In most cases, the prison will be notified straight away of the Parole Board’s decision. If the case involves someone with a sentence of fifteen years or more the case will be referred to the Home Secretary for them to make the final decision. Should the parole be refused it can normally be reapplied for each year, 12 months from the original date. If someone has less than 6 months left to serve of their sentence however, this is not the case as it is deemed that by the time a decision is made the date of release would be close anyway.
What does an unsuccessful application mean?
Although a prisoner cannot appeal a parole decision, they can only reapply next year, there is a complaints procedure for if the prisoner feels they have been unfairly dealt with or mistreated in some way.
Rather than just a yes or no answer to a parole application, prisoners could be notified that they will receive an early review or a special review. These are only ever granted under unusual circumstances, such as to see how the prisoner progresses on a drug treatment programme or an employment course which the Parole Board sees as integral to the decision of whether or not early release should be granted.