Parole Is Not Probation
It is common to be confused about what parole is. It is sometimes confused with probation and sometimes as an “early release” from a sentence. It is neither.
Parole is the conditional supervised release of a prison inmate. Even though being granted parole results in an inmate leaving prison confinement before the end of their sentence, parole doesn’t technically shorten or end the sentence handed down by the court. If granted, parole allows inmates to leave the prison setting with conditions they must follow for the time they would have remained in prison.
What parole does provide can be priceless, however; it allows an inmate to breathe fresh air. The opportunity to reintegrate into society. The chance to be with loved ones.
The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board oversees the parole process in Oklahoma. Inmates are differentiated based on whether their underlying crime is considered violent or non-violent (as listed in Title 57 of Oklahoma Statutes). As you will see, this classification controls much of the parole process.
Eligibility for Parole
Non-violent offenders must serve one-third of their sentence before becoming eligible for parole. Violent offenders must serve 85% of their sentence before parole eligibility.
Once an inmate is eligible for parole, a hearing date is set, and the parole process begins.
After being sentenced, inmates are given an initial parole docket eligibility date. Sometime before that eligibility date, a Parole Investigator prepares an investigative report, the Pardon and Parole Board schedules a hearing, and the investigative information is presented and reviewed by the Board.
The Board’s review process is extensive. It will consider the inmates’ complete criminal record, including the present underlying crime. The Board accepts and reviews victim impact statements made during sentencing, looks at the inmate’s record while incarcerated, and pays close attention to the inmate’s prospects for stable housing and employment. The better the support, the more likely the inmate’s success on parole.
As the date nears, the Board sends a hearing notice to the inmate, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, the prosecuting district attorneys, the victim or victims of the crime, and anyone else who has registered their interest in that inmate with the Pardon and Parole Board Victim’s Coordinator.
The Parole Hearing
The parole hearing can move quickly, but what the inmate seeking parole presents to the Board is highly important. The inmate, or the person appointed to speak on their behalf, will only have two minutes to address the Pardon and Parole Board. The speaker should focus on the inmate’s readiness for release and the support system they have in place. It pays to be ready and to know what to expect at the hearing.
The Board will also likely ask questions about the underlying crime directly to the inmate. The Board may inquire about the inmate’s remorse and how the crime affected the victim(s). A parole hearing is usually not the occasion for an inmate to proclaim innocence or assert defenses. Ultimately, the Pardon and Parole Board weighs to what extent the inmate is a “threat to society” against their desire and readiness to re-enter society. The Board will only approve parole for inmates they deem not a threat to society and for whom they believe parole would be successful.
Following the hearing, each of the Board’s five members submits an individual vote, with a majority vote required for a favorable result. The Board will make one of the following decisions:
- Recommend parole for a violent offender to the Governor;
- Grant parole for a non-violent offender;
- Pass the offender to another docket.
- Denial of parole for the offender.
A favorable vote for a non-violent offender results in that inmate’s parole. A favorable recommendation for a violent offender results in a recommendation to the Governor of Oklahoma for final parole approval.
If the Pardon and Parole Board denies parole, it will not reconsider non-violent offenders for one (1) year; it does not reconsider violent offenders for another three (3) years.
Oklahoma City Parole Board Attorney
The stakes are very high with a hearing before the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board. It is best to get help and do this right.
An Oklahoma City Parole Board attorney with Wirth Law Office can be the advocate you need to negotiate this process. Our attorneys can help the inmate prepare for the Parole Board hearing and speak on their behalf.
Don’t put your freedom on hold. For a free consultation with an Oklahoma City parole hearing attorney, call 918-932-2833. You can also submit an email question from the top right corner of this page. We will respond to all inquiries as soon as possible.