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Parole is the conditional release of prisoners before the full completion of their sentence. The condition of the release of paroled prisoners is supervision by a public officer. The parole officer takes the role of supervising the parolee. If the parolee violates any of the conditions of their release, they may have to return to prison after a hearing. Some of the conditions of parole are; staying within a prescribed geographical area, notifying parole officers of any changes of address, refraining from the use of illegal substances, and refraining from committing any additional crimes while on parole. For instance, if a parolee committed an assault, they would probably have to return to prison, while if they violated a minor traffic violation, they probably would not have to return to prison.

The parole board determines whether a prisoner is eligible for parole, provided that the prisoner’s sentence allows for the possibility of parole. If the prisoner is deemed eligible, the parole board conducts a hearing, looking into the prisoner’s plan after release such as housing, education, employment status, and family relations. However, prisoners do not have a right to parole. Rules regarding parole vary by jurisdiction. See, e.g., the United States Parole Commission website.

Parole was designed as an opportunity for the prisoner to smoothly integrate back into society. Also, the conditions of parole assures that parolees maintain their good behavior after their release. The very possibility of parole incentivizes the prisoners to be on good behavior even before the parole hearing. Granting parole to some prisoners also reduces the overpopulation of prisons when necessary, and may lead to reduced prison spending.

See also: Criminal Procedure

[Last updated in November of 2023 by the Wex Definitions Team]