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Oberheiden, P.C. Blog

Can I Get Parole for a Federal Offense?

Arrested and in Jail

What is Parole?

Parole is a decision by a special board, typically the prison parole board, that allows an inmate to be released prior to serving the entire sentence. If granted, parole allows the inmate to spend the remainder of the imposed sentenced in free society— subject to certain conditions of good behavior.

What Are Conditions for Parole?

Parole comes with several conditions that must be satisfied by the offender in order to not be sent back to jail or prison. While some conditions for release depend on each case, the following are standard conditions for parole release: Regular meetings with a parole officer; an agreement to not carry firearms; an agreement not to leave the state or county of residency; and the passing of random drug tests.

Is There Parole in the Federal System?

Until 1984, most federal prisoners received sentences that included parole options after serving approximately one-third of their sentences. Congress then abolished federal parole for all prisoners convicted on or after November 1, 1987 through the Sentencing Reform Act. Today, only a small number of federal inmates may qualify for parole, typically those convicted before November 1, 1987 and so-called “transfer treaty cases” of crimes prosecuted outside the United States but referred to the U.S. for sentencing. That means the short answer is: for the vast majority of current inmates as well as each offender currently processed there is no parole in the federal criminal justice system.

Why Was Parole Abolished?

Congress wanted to eliminate the uncertainty in prison terms and aimed at creating certain, knowable dates of release for federal inmates. The underlying purpose was to establish uniform prison term standards across the country. By the same token, Congress reacted to demands from voters to intensify deterrence for committing federal crimes by abolishing parole, which was considered a form of pardoning a convicted offender.

Is Parole Coming Back?

At this point, no legislative movement exists to bring back parole to the federal criminal system. Note, however, that many states still use parole. Each state that allows for parole uses a firm process to examine if a prisoner qualifies for parole. Among the relevant decision factors are psychological interviews, review of inmate behavior, and the likelihood of committing another crime when released to free society.

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