How Parole Works in Georgia
Parole is the discretionary release of an offender from confinement, after he has served part of his sentence, under continuing State custody and supervision and under conditions which, if violated, permit his re-imprisonment. In Georgia, State and county inmates may be granted parole only by the State Board of Pardons and Paroles. The Board was created in February, 1943, by statute, and in August, 1943, Georgia voters ratified an amendment setting forth the Board’s authority in the State Constitution. The Constitution provided that the Board would be protected from political pressures.
The Board is composed of five members appointed by the Governor for staggered, renewable seven-year terms subject to confirmation by the State Senate. Each year the Board elects one of its members to serve as chairman. Members of the Board as of July, 2012, are: James E. Donald (Chairman), Albert R. Murray (Vice-Chairman), Robert E. Keller, Terry E. Barnard, and James W. Mills. The address of the Parole Board is:
Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles
Floyd Veterans Memorial Building
2 Martin Luther King, Jr., Dr., SE
Suite 458, Balcony Level, East Tower
Atlanta, Georgia 30334-4909
An eligible inmate serving a State felony or State misdemeanor sentence in the custody of the Department of Corrections (DOC) is automatically considered for parole. No application is necessary.
An inmate serving consecutive county misdemeanor confinement sentences exceeding 12 months is considered for parole if he has requested consideration.
The Board considers an inmate for parole regardless of appeals or other legal action by the inmate or his representative. If the offender is not listed in the custody of the DOC, he must request parole consideration.
The Board may decide not to consider paroling an offender serving a Georgia sentence in custody at an out-of-state or Federal prison or at a mental hospital when favorable action of the Board would not result in the offender’s release from confinement.
PRACTICE TIP: EVEN IF THE OFFENDER IS IN OUT-OF-STATE CUSTODY, IT MIGHT STILL BE WORTH SEEKING PAROLE ON HIS GEORGIA STATE SENTENCE BECAUSE IF HE HAS NOT BEEN PAROLED THE BOARD MIGHT LODGE A DETAINER ON HIM AND THE DETAINER COULD PREVENT HIM FROM BEING ELIGIBLE FOR CERTAIN PROGRAMS AT THE INSTITUTION WHERE HE IS SERVING HIS TIME.
Parole Consideration and Eligibility for Non-Life Inmates
Non-life inmates are considered for parole through the Board’s Parole Guidelines System and notified of the decision as soon as necessary investigations are completed–usually within eight to ten months after entering the State prison system or later if the inmate would not yet be statutorily eligible for parole.
When considering for parole those offenders who will become statutorily eligible for parole consideration and who are serving less than a life sentence, the Board receives a recommendation of months, or a percentage of the sentence to serve. This recommendation is obtained from the Parole Decision Guidelines system, which accounts for the severity of the crime and the offender’s risk to re-offend. The offender’s risk to reoffend is determined by weighted factors concerning the offender’s criminal and social history that the Board claims has value predicting the probability of further criminal behavior and successful adjustment under parole supervision. Guidelines are supposed to help the Board decide on a Tentative Parole Month (TPM) for the inmate or that he will complete his sentence without parole.
Sentences of Two Years or Less
Defendants with sentences of two years or less are usually placed on a “fast track” and considered for parole without the time consuming investigations usually required by the Board. For instance, male defendants who are serving sentences of two years or less, and who meet other DOC criteria, may be transferred from the county jails directly into three or six month Strategic Intervention Programs (SIP) offered at Coastal State Prison and, upon successful completion of those programs, may be released on parole by the Parole Board.
Early Parole Consideration
Unless statutorily barred from doing so, the Board may consider a defendant for parole prior to his/her Parole Eligibility Date (PED) which is usually one third of the sentence. Pursuant to OCGA §42-9-46, if the Parole Board exercises its authority under OCGA §42-9-45(c) to consider a defendant for parole prior to the eligibility requirements set forth in OCGA §42-9-45(b), the Parole Board must notify the registered victim(s), the sentencing judge, and the district attorney in writing at least ten days prior to its consideration of parole for the defendant. The registered victim(s), the sentencing judge, and the district attorney will be afforded the opportunity to submit a written statement to the Parole Board or appear before the Parole Board to express their views regarding parole of the defendant.
Practice Tip—In many cases it is unwise for an inmate to seek a decision before his PED because if the victim, sentencing judge, or district attorney object, their objections could be used as a justification for a harsher decision well beyond the PED date. Sometimes it is better to let sleeping dogs lie.
Parole Consideration Under the Pre-2008 Guidelines
The application of the Parole Decision Guidelines to the circumstances of the offender’s case begins with a Board Hearing Examiner identifying an inmate’s Crime Severity Level from a table of offenses ranked in several levels. (The Crime Severity Levels Chart for pre 2006 offenses is attached as Appendix 1 and for 2006-2007 offenses as Appendix 4.) The higher the severity, the longer the inmate is recommended to serve. Then, for pre 2008 cases, the hearing examiner calculates the inmate’s Parole Success Likelihood Score by adding weighted factors with allegedly proven predictive value from the inmate’s criminal and social history. (The Parole Success Score Chart for pre 2008 cases is attached as Appendix 2.) A history of factors such as a juvenile record, prior imprisonment, parole or probation failure, heroin or cocaine use or possession, and joblessness would increase the risk of paroling the inmate and cause him to be recommended for longer confinement.
The hearing examiner cross-refers the inmate’s Crime Severity Level and Parole Success Likelihood Factor Score on the Guidelines Grid component of the Parole Decision Guidelines System. The Guidelines Grid provides a months-to-serve recommendation for the Board’s discretionary consideration. (The Parole Decision Guidelines Grid for pre 2006 cases is attached as Appendix 3 and for 2006-2007 offenses as Appendix 5.)
The Board votes to accept or reject the months-to-serve recommendation. If the Board votes to reject the recommendation, the Board makes a fully discretionary clemency determination which may or may not permit parole for the inmate.
The Board then sends the inmate a notice explaining their decision and emphasizing that any TPM is conditioned on good conduct in prison and sometimes also on successful completion of a drug, alcohol, sex-offender counseling program, or other pre-condition. Usually on the recommendation of the DOC, misconduct results in parole postponement or cancellation.
PRACTICE TIP: THE PRE-2008 GUIDELINES GRIDS WERE HIGHLY MISLEADING. ALTHOUGH THE BOARD WENT THROUGH THE MOTIONS OF DETERMINING THE GRID RECOMMENDATION DATE, IT MORE OFTEN THAN NOT IMPOSED A DECISION ASTRONOMICALLY HIGHER THAN THAT INDICATED BY THE GRID RECOMMENDATION.
The New Crime Severity Level VIII
Almost eight months after the Board in March, 2005, withdrew the 90% regulation it had applied to a number of serious offenses since 1998, the Board decided, in effect, to replace the 90% regulation by adding a new Crime Severity Level VIII to its guideline grid system. Thus inmates who were convicted on or after January 1, 2006, of the following crimes are being placed in Crime Severity Level VIII: voluntary manslaughter, statutory rape, homicide by vehicle while under the influence of alcohol/drugs or as a habitual traffic violator, aggravated battery on a police officer, aggravated assault on a police officer, attempted rape, involuntary manslaughter, hijacking a motor vehicle, criminal attempt to murder, aggravated assault (with injury or weapon), enticing a child for an indecent purpose, cruelty to children, child molestation, feticide by vehicle, incest, bus hijacking, robbery, aggravated stalking, aggravated battery, burglary of an occupied residence, VGCSA–Cocaine or Methamphetamine–400 or more grams, VGCSA–Marijuana–10,000 or more pounds, or VGCSA–Opiates–28 or more grams. These are basically the 20 offenses previously governed by the 90% regulation, plus three of the most serious drug offenses. (The Crime Severity Levels Chart of Post 2006 offenses is attached as Appendix 4) The Parole Guidelines recommendation for Crime Severity Level VIII offenders considered prior to January 1, 2008, who had a Parole Success Likelihood Score of 0 to 8, was 90% of the prison sentence. The recommendation for Crime Severity Level VIII offenders considered during that time with a Parole Success Likelihood Score of 9 to 13 was 75% of the prison sentence. The recommendation for Crime Severity Level VIII offenders considered during that time with a Parole Success Likelihood Score of 14 to 20 was 65% of the prison sentence. (The Parole Decision Guidelines Grid for Post 2006 offenses is attached as Appendix 5) These guideline changes do not apply retroactively. They apply only to offenders who committed crimes on or after January 1, 2006.
PRACTICE TIPS: AS BAD AS THE ADDITION OF OFFENSE LEVEL VIII IS, IT IS STILL MUCH BETTER THAN THE ALTERNATIVE THAT WAS DISCUSSED BY THE LEGISLATURE WHICH WAS TO MAKE THE FORMER 90% REGULATION A STATUTE. THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN EVEN WORSE BECAUSE A STATUTORILY IMPOSED 90% DECISION WOULD LEAVE THE BOARD NO DISCRETION TO RENDER A DECISION LESS THAN 90%.
BY RELYING ON THE PAROLE SUCCESS LIKELIHOOD OR RISK TO RE-OFFEND SCORE TO DETERMINE WHAT PERCENTAGE OF THE SENTENCE IS TO BE SERVED, THE BOARD IS PLACING MUCH MORE EMPHASIS ON THE INMATE’S PRIOR RECORD THAN IT DID UNDER THE OLD 90% REGULATION. ALSO IT IS INTERESTING TO NOTE THE SUBTLE DISTINCTION NOW MADE BETWEEN “BURGLARY OF AN OCCUPIED RESIDENCE” UNDER THE NEW GUIDELINES AND “RESIDENTIAL BURGLARY” UNDER THE 90% REGULATION. UNDER THE NEW GUIDELINES ONE MIGHT BE ABLE TO ARGUE THAT BURGLARY OF AN UNOCCUPIED RESIDENCE IS NOT INCLUDED ALTHOUGH IT CERTAINLY WOULD HAVE BEEN UNDER THE 90% REGULATION.
ALTHOUGH THE NEW CRIME SEVERITY LEVEL VIII IS NOT RETROACTIVE, IT CAN STILL BE USED AS A POWERFUL ARGUMENT FOR AN EARLIER RELEASE DATE IN THOSE PRE-2006 CASES WHERE, AS A RESULT OF A GOOD PAROLE SUCCESS LIKELIHOOD OR RISK TO RE-OFFEND SCORE, THE INMATE WOULD HAVE BEEN GIVEN A 65% OR 75% RELEASE DATE IF CRIME SEVERITY LEVEL VIII HAD BEEN IN FORCE. THE ARGUMENT CAN BE MADE THAT JUST AS THE BOARD FREQUENTLY USES ITS DISCRETION TO AVOID DISPARITY BY GIVING AN INMATE A HARSHER PAROLE DATE CONSISTENT WITH A REGULATION THAT MIGHT NOT TECHNICALLY APPLY TO HIM BECAUSE HIS CASE PREDATED THE REGULATION, IT SHOULD NOW USE ITS DISCRETION TO APPLY THE NEW CRIME SEVERITY LEVEL VIII TO OLDER CASES TO WHICH LEVEL VIII DOES NOT TECHNICALLY APPLY IN ORDER TO AVOID THE DISPARITY THAT WOULD RESULT BY HAVING INMATES SERVE MORE TIME SIMPLY BECAUSE THEY COMMITTED THEIR OFFENSES PRIOR TO JANUARY 1, 2006, THE DATE THE POTENTIALLY MORE LENIENT GUIDELINE WENT INTO EFFECT.
Parole Consideration Under the Revised Guidelines
The Parole Board has revised its Parole Decision Guidelines grid and changed the manner in which it evaluates offenders for cases considered on or after January 1, 2008. The Parole Board claims the new guidelines incorporate a scientifically based, data-driven risk instrument with new time to serve guidelines. These new Guidelines, according to the Board, represent for the first time a linkage with the statewide average length of prison sentences imposed by Superior Court Judges.
In the new Parole Decision Guidelines grid, the minimum mid-point Parole Decision Guidelines recommendation for each Crime Severity Level represents one-third, or more, of the Statewide average prison sentence for all crimes assigned said Crime Severity Level. These amendments to the Parole Decision Guidelines were preceded by a three year study and analysis of risk factors utilized in granting clemency to offenders, past clemency practices, and the effects of the new guidelines on prison capacity.
Under the revised guidelines, the hearing examiner cross references the Offender’s Crime Severity Level (Appendix 4) and Risk to Re-offend Score on the Guidelines Grid component of the Parole Decision Guidelines System. (The Risk to Re-Offend Score Chart for Post 2008 cases is attached as Appendix 6). The Guidelines Grid provides a months-to-serve or a percentage of the prison sentence recommendation for the Board’s consideration. (The Parole Decision Guidelines Grid for Post 2008 cases is attached as Appendix 7) The Board adopted various percentages of the sentence for Level VIII offenses, rather than an across-the-board percentage (e.g. 90%), because the law governing parole guidelines requires that the guidelines take into consideration not just the severity of the crime, but “the inmate’s conduct, and the social factors which the board has found to have value predicting the probability of further criminal behavior.” (See O.C.G.A s. 42-9-40)
Just as under the old guidelines, the Board may accept or reject the recommendation from the new Guidelines. The Board specifically reserves the right to exercise its discretion under Georgia Law to disagree with the recommendation resulting from application of the Parole Decision Guidelines and to make an independent decision to deny parole or to establish a TPM at any time prior to sentence expiration.
PRACTICE TIPS: THE RISK TO RE-OFFEND SCORE CHART IS CONSIDERABLY DIFFERENT FROM THE PAROLE SUCCESS LIKELIHOOD SCORE CHART. THE NUMBER OF FELONY CONVICTION COUNTS IS CRITICAL IN THE RISK CALCULATION SO IT IS CRUCIAL TO PLEAD TO OR BE CONVICTED OF AS FEW COUNTS AS POSSIBLE. ALCOHOL AS WELL AS DRUG USE IS NOW CONSIDERED. PROBATION/PAROLE FAILURE IS NO LONGER A FACTOR AND NEITHER IS THE INMATE’S WRITING, READING, ARITHMETIC (WRAT) SCORE. EMPLOYMENT AT THE TIME OF ARREST IS EVEN MORE IMPORTANT AS A RISK FACTOR, BUT NOW INCLUDES PART TIME AS WELL AS FULL TIME EMPLOYMENT. FOR OFFENSE LEVELS I-VII A SPECIFIC GRID MONTH RECOMMENDATION HAS BEEN REPLACED WITH A LOW, MID AND HIGH RANGE RECOMMENDATION. THIS GIVES THE INMATE OR HIS ATTORNEY AN INCENTIVE TO ARGUE THAT THE INMATE’S CASE HAS EXTENUATING CIRCUMSTANCES THAT SUPPORT A LOW RANGE TPM RATHER THAN A MID OR HIGH RANGE ONE. A REPRESENTATIVE OF THE BOARD HAS TOLD ME THAT IT IS ANTICIPATED THAT THE BOARD WILL STAY WITHIN THE GUIDELINE RANGE APPROXIMATELY 70% OF THE TIME. THE FACT THAT THE BOARD ANTICIPATES THAT 30% OF ITS DECISIONS WILL BE OUTSIDE THE NEW GUIDELINES SUGGESTS THAT THE INMATE MAY BENEFIT BY PRESENTATION OF ARGUMENTS TO THE BOARD JUSTIFYING A DECISION AS FAR BELOW THE GUIDELINES AS HIS STATUTORY PAROLE ELIGIBILITY DATE. IT FURTHER GIVES THE INMATE OR HIS ATTORNEY AN INCENTIVE TO TRY AND PERSUADE THE BOARD THAT A DECISION ABOVE THE GUIDELINES IS NOT JUSTIFIED BY THE FACTS OF THE CASE OR THE INMATE’S RISK TO RE-OFFEND.
Parole in Life Sentence Cases
Parole Decision Guidelines are not used for life-sentenced inmates. An offender serving a life sentence, for which parole is authorized by law, is automatically considered for parole on the date permitted by applicable constitutional and statutory law.
Parole-eligible offenders now serving a life sentence for a serious violent felony (murder, rape, aggravated sodomy, aggravated child molestation, aggravated sexual battery, armed robbery, or kidnapping) who were convicted between 1995 and June 30, 2006, will initially be considered for parole after serving 14 years. Those offenders who committed such crimes on or after July 1, 2006, will not be considered for parole until they have served 30 years. Most life-sentenced offenders convicted of serious violent felonies before 1995 were eligible for parole after seven years and have already received their initial parole consideration. Overriding the above rules where applicable, Georgia law mandates the following:
1) A person whose death sentence for a crime committed in 1977 or later is commuted to life imprisonment by the Board must serve 25 years before becoming eligible for parole consideration.
2) A person convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment before July 1, 2006, and who has previously been imprisoned under a life sentence must serve 25 years before becoming eligible for parole consideration.
3) A person who is serving consecutive life sentences before July 1, 2006, for offenses occurring in the same series of acts committed on or after July 1, 1983, and any of the life sentences is for murder must serve consecutive ten-year periods for each such sentence, up to a maximum of 30 years, before becoming eligible for parole consideration. Offenders who committed their crimes on or after July 1, 2006, must serve 60 years.
4) Offenders serving life sentences for drug offenses are eligible for parole consideration after seven years.
5) Overriding any of the above provisions where applicable, a person will not become eligible for parole consideration who is serving a sentence of less than life imprisonment for rape, aggravated sodomy, aggravated child molestation, aggravated sexual battery, armed robbery, or kidnapping committed on January 1, 1995, or later. A person convicted for any of these offenses will serve the court-ordered prison time, which must be at least ten years, in its entirety.
PRACTICE TIP: ALTHOUGH THE PAROLE BOARD APPEARS TO MAKE DISTINCTIONS ON HOW IT TREATS OFFENDERS BASED ON THE DATE THE CRIME WAS COMMITTED, AS A PRACTICAL MATTER, THE BOARD FREQUENTLY TREATS OFFENDERS THE SAME IN ORDER TO AVOID DISPARITY. THUS, AN INMATE CONVICTED IN 1994 OF MURDER AND SENTENCED TO LIFE, ALTHOUGH TECHNICALLY ELIGIBLE FOR PAROLE AFTER SERVICE OF SEVEN YEARS, WOULD PROBABLY NOT BE RELEASED AFTER SERVING LESS TIME THAN AN INMATE WHO WAS CONVICTED IN 2004 WHO WILL NOT BE CONSIDERED FOR PAROLE UNTIL SERVICE OF FOURTEEN YEARS.
It is the policy of the Board that all life-sentenced offenders denied parole may be set for reconsideration up to a maximum of eight years from the date of last denial when, in the Board’s determination, it is not reasonable to expect that parole would be granted during the intervening years.
PRACTICE TIP: NOTWITHSTANDING THE ABOVE, OFFENDERS SET OFF UNDER THIS POLICY MAY RECEIVE EXPEDITED PAROLE REVIEWS IN THE EVENT OF A CHANGE IN THEIR CIRCUMSTANCE OR WHERE THE BOARD RECEIVES NEW INFORMATION THAT WOULD WARRANT AN EARLIER REVIEW.
Parole Decision by Independent Judgment
When an inmate is considered for parole, the case file is given to one of the five Board members, who studies it, deliberates alone, and renders his independent decision. Then a staff member transfers the file to a second Board member, who writes his decision. This process continues until the majority decision has been determined.
PRACTICE TIP: THE CASE FILE IS FIRST READ BY A HEARING EXAMINER WHO MAKES THE INITIAL RECOMMENDATION ON THE CASE. THUS, IT IS SOMETIMES BETTER TO ADDRESS ANY PAROLE PRESENTATION TO A HEARING EXAMINER THAT YOU HAVE IDENTIFIED AS BEING FAIR RATHER THAN TO THE BOARD GENERALLY. THE INMATE IS NOT ENTITLED TO AN ACTUAL HEARING.
Notification to Inmate of Parole Decision
An inmate serving a non-life sentence whose case has been considered under Parole Decision Guidelines receives a Notice of Tentative Action. It leads him step by step to show him how and why the Board arrived at its tentative decision. Reports from the DOC of misconduct of the offender usually result in parole postponement or cancellation. Reports of outstanding conduct and rehabilitative efforts on the part of the inmate can result in the Board advancing a TPM up to one year through the Performance Incentive Credit (PIC) Program discussed below. If the inmate thinks an error has been made in the Guidelines computations, he has 30 days in which he may request re-computation.
An inmate serving a life sentence who is denied parole is sent a letter informing him of the decision and giving reasons without disclosing confidential sources of information or possibly discouraging diagnostic opinions. The letter also advises him of his next consideration month and year.
An inmate scheduled for release will be reevaluated prior to his TPM. If that review is favorable, a parole certificate will be issued approximately 14 days before his release date and the inmate will be notified by letter. A decision to grant parole is always tentative and may be changed at any time prior to the inmate’s actual release.
PRACTICE TIP: THE PRESENT BOARD IS CONSERVATIVE AND SOMETIMES USES THE REEVALUATION AS AN OPPORTUNITY TO EXTEND AN INMATE’S TPM IF THE ORIGINAL TPM WAS IMPOSED BY A PREVIOUS BOARD THE PRESENT BOARD BELIEVES WAS TOO LENIENT.
After the Board issues a parole order, a notice of parole is within 72 hours sent to the presiding judge, district attorney, sheriff of the county of conviction, and sheriff and police chief of the county and community in which the parolee will reside. The Board also notifies the victim if a Victim Impact Statement has been filed with the Board and the offense was a crime against the person, or if correspondence from a victim of any crime includes a request for notification.
Majority Vote Decides Clemency
A decision to grant any type of clemency is by majority vote.
Inmate Must Accept Conditions
An inmate is informed of the conditions of his parole, reprieve, or other conditional clemency and must accept all conditions by signing the clemency document before the clemency will become effective.
Work Release and Treatment Referral
When considering an inmate for parole, the Board may vote tentatively for parole on condition that the inmate successfully completes the DOC’s work release program first. The inmate is notified that he is being recommended to the DOC for work release. The DOC, not the Parole Board, handles placement of the inmate in a suitable facility.
In the same way, the Board during parole consideration may recommend an inmate for the DOC’s alcohol and drug treatment program, sex offender counseling program or other rehabilitative programs which, upon successful completion, may lead to parole.
Consideration of Lifer After Parole Denial
Life sentence inmates denied parole will be reconsidered for parole at least as often as required by the Board’s official rules in effect on the date parole is considered. The current official rule permits eight year setoffs when, in the Board’s determination, it is not reasonable to expect that parole would be granted during the intervening years. Inmates set off under this policy may receive expedited parole reviews if circumstances or new information warrant the Board’s reexamination of the case.
Consideration After Escape
An inmate who has escaped will not be considered for parole until his return to custody of Georgia prison authorities. If a life sentence inmate was considered for parole before his escape, he is scheduled for his next consideration one to eight years after recapture
Consideration After Parole Revocation
A person returned to prison after parole revocation is scheduled for parole consideration not more than 12 months nor less than six months after revocation if he has sufficient confinement time remaining or unless a new sentence supersedes the revoked sentence for the purpose of computing parole eligibility.
Exceptional Parole Consideration
An inmate, or a person representing the inmate, may petition the Board in writing to grant consideration for parole sooner than scheduled by the Board. Only petitions setting forth clear, objective, independently verifiable, and compelling evidence will be considered by the Board. Whether or not any request or petition presents important, clear, objective, independently verifiable, and compelling evidence is determined by the Board. Views, opinions, and quarrels with court evidence do not in any case amount to such evidence for the Board. The Board considers court-imposed sentences to be proportional to the crime, fair, and just, without highly compelling, clear, objective evidence to the contrary. In every petition case the Board’s discretion and internal procedures will determine whether or not a petition is granted.
Personal or family needs or hardships, including sickness and financial burdens, occur in nearly every case of an offender going to prison. Consequently, personal, family, or business needs or hardships will not in any case justify a petition or require any favorable Board action.
PRACTICE TIP: ONE WAY OF SHOWING “CLEAR, OBJECTIVE, INDEPENDENTLY VERIFIABLE AND COMPELLING” EVIDENCE SUPPORTING RELEASE IS BY DEMONSTRATING DISPARITY IN TREATMENT, EITHER AMONG CO-DEFENDANTS OR WITH OTHER INMATES CONVICTED OF SIMILAR CRIMES.
Notification to Judge, District Attorney, Law Enforcement, Victim
Before making a decision on whether to parole an inmate, the Board carefully reviews any comments from court officials. It actively solicits such comments, believing they can lead to better decisions.
The Board requires a parole officer beginning a pre-parole Legal Investigation of an inmate’s offense to send a letter to the district attorney or assistant district attorney who prosecuted the case. The letter encourages the prosecutor to comment and, in particular, share his knowledge of any aggravating or mitigating circumstances. If the prosecutor gives his response promptly, it is made a part of the Legal Investigation report. If it arrives later, it is sent to the Board’s central office as a supplement to the report.
If the Board is to consider paroling an inmate before he has served the time required for automatic initial consideration, the Board notifies in writing, at least ten days before formal consideration, the sentencing judge and district attorney of the county where the inmate was sentenced to give them an opportunity to express their views.
After the Board issues a parole order, a notice of parole is within 72 hours sent to the presiding judge, district attorney, sheriff of the county of conviction, and sheriff and police chief of the county and community in which the parolee will reside. The Board also notifies the victim if a Victim Impact Statement has been filed with the Board and the offense was a crime against the person, or if correspondence from a victim of any crime includes a request for notification.
Before the Board considers an inmate for parole, it conducts investigations, detailed reports of which become a part of the Board’s case file, which is separate from files maintained by the Department of Corrections.
First, a parole officer studies arrest and court records and may talk with arresting officers, court officials, victims, and witnesses in order to write a Legal Investigation report on the details of the inmate’s current offense and a summary of any prior offenses in the same county.
Next, a parole officer interviews the inmate and completes a Personal History Statement questionnaire. The inmate is asked, among other things, where he has resided, attended school, and worked; who his family members are and where they live; where he plans to live and work; and what his own account is of his crime.
Finally, a parole officer conducts a Social Investigation, which includes interviews with persons mentioned in the Personal History Statement as well as others. The written report presents a revealing picture of the inmate’s life from birth to current imprisonment and may also indicate the degree of his truthfulness.
Before the inmate is paroled, the Board receives a Parole Review Summary from the Department of Corrections. This discusses the inmate’s behavior, attitude, physical status, mental and emotional condition, participation in activities, and performance in work and training.
The Board may, at its discretion, request detailed psychological or psychiatric opinions.
Other documents in the case file usually include a Federal Bureau of Investigation or Georgia Crime Information Center record of arrests and convictions, Classification and Admission Summary (on the inmate’s condition when he entered prison), Disciplinary Reports, relevant material from written correspondence, and summaries of information from central office visitors.
PRACTICE TIP: MANY INMATES TRY TO IMPRESS THE PAROLE OFFICER AS BEING CONTRITE BY ADMITTING THINGS DURING THEIR INTERVIEW THAT ARE NOT EVEN IN THE FILE. THIS IS FOOLISH, ESPECIALLY IN DRUG CASES, WHERE THE AMOUNT OF DRUGS COULD MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN WHAT CRIME SEVERITY LEVEL THE INMATE IS PLACED. THE INMATE SHOULD BE INSTRUCTED EITHER TO NOT TALK ABOUT THE OFFENSE OR TO STICK TO THE INFORMATION HE KNOWS IS ALREADY IN THE FILE.
Important Factors in Parole Decision
Certain factors have been designated by the Board as especially important when a person is considered for parole. The Board will not parole an inmate if there is any reason to believe he will engage in further criminal conduct or will not conform to all conditions of parole. In its investigations the Board will take into account all of the following factors:
A. The inmate’s employment history, education, and occupational skills and training (including military training).
B. The inmate’s past illegal use of controlled substances or past habitual
and excessive use of alcohol.
C. Any recommendations made by the sentencing court.
D. The inmate’s behavior and attitude during any previous experience of probation or parole, and how long its been since that time.
E. Circumstances of the offense for which the inmate is serving a sentence.
F. Any protests or recommendations filed with the Board regarding the inmate’s suitability for parole.
G. Any record which the inmate may have of past offenses.
H. The inmate’s reputation in the community.
(All information pertaining to an inmate’s prison record, including conduct, training, and attitude, is obtained solely from the Department of Corrections.)
A. The inmate’s ability and readiness to assume obligations and undertake responsibilities.
B. The inmate’s vocational, educational, and other training since incarceration.
C. The inmate’s conduct during his term of imprisonment.
D. Any noticeable attitudinal change since the offense for which the inmate was incarcerated.
E. The physical and emotional status of the inmate.
F. The inmate’s positive efforts on behalf of himself or on behalf of others, which can include Performance Incentive Credits for eligible inmates.
A. The inmate’s family status, including whether his relatives display an interest in him or whether he has other close and constructive associations in the community.
B. The type of residence, neighborhood, or community in which the inmate plans to live.
C. The adequacy of the inmate’s plans or prospects upon release.
D. The availability of community resources to assist the inmate.
Recommendations for Parole
Submitting recommendations or signatures on petitions is not necessary for favorable parole consideration. Views of persons familiar with a case are obtained through regular official investigations and kept confidential. The Board does not encourage an inmate or anyone acting in his behalf to seek a recommendation from a judge or prosecutor because such officials often do not consider that a proper judicial function. However, the Board welcomes relevant information from any source, public or private, which may shed additional light on a case.
The Board maintains a written record of persons contacting a Board member on behalf of an inmate. This record includes the name and address of the contacting person and the reason for the contact.
PRACTICE TIP: ALTHOUGH THE BOARD DOES NOT ENCOURAGE AN INMATE TO SEEK A RECOMMENDATION FROM THE JUDGE OR PROSECUTOR, IF SUCH A RECOMMENDATION IS OBTAINED IT CAN BE EXTREMELY HELPFUL. PROSECUTORS WILL USUALLY NOT MAKE FAVORABLE RECOMMENDATIONS UNLESS THE INMATE HAS PROVIDED COOPERATION. HOWEVER, A PROSECUTOR WILL SOMETIMES AT LEAST CLARIFY A DISPUTED FACT. JUDGES MAY SOMETIMES BE PERSUADED TO SEND IN A LETTER IF THE BOARD’S DECISION IS INCONSISTENT WITH WHAT THE JUDGE HAD IN MIND WHEN HE IMPOSED HIS SENTENCE. CONTACTING THE PROSECUTOR AND/OR JUDGE CAN BACKFIRE IF IT CAUSES THEM TO WRITE A LETTER OPPOSING PAROLE.
Recommendations Against Parole
Signed written recommendations against granting parole are considered by the Board. The Board keeps such information and its source strictly confidential.
Board Records Are Confidential
All information, both oral and written, received by the Board in the performance of its duty and which is not public record elsewhere and was not obtained in a public Board hearing is classified as confidential State secrets unless declassified by resolution of the Board. Confidential information includes investigative and supervisory reports and recommendations for and against clemency.
PRACTICE TIP: RELEASE STATISTICS ARE PUBLIC RECORDS AND CAN BE OBTAINED THROUGH AN OPEN RECORDS ACT REQUEST FROM THE LEGAL COUNSEL’S OFFICE.
Residence and Employment Plans
It is necessary that an inmate have an acceptable residence plan before his release on parole although not necessarily before the Board renders its decision. Residence plans will not be verified until and unless the Board has tentatively decided to grant parole and the TPM for the inmate approaches. In addition, if at all possible, the inmate should have an acceptable employment offer.
An inmate who wants to be paroled to another state should notify the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles of his specific residence and employment plans, giving complete addresses. He may do this by informing the parole officer who interviews him for the Personal History Statement before his initial consideration or by writing directly to the Board’s Interstate Compact Office.
A prospective parolee has legitimate reasons to request out-of-state parole if he has been a resident of the proposed receiving state and if his family lives there. The proposed receiving state investigates the inmate’s parole plans and decides whether to accept him for supervision. The Georgia Board must also approve the inmate’s parole plans, and only the Georgia Board may grant parole.
PRACTICE TIP: SEEKING AN OUT-OF-STATE RELEASE CAN DELAY PAROLE BECAUSE THE INMATE WILL NOT BE PAROLED UNTIL THE RECEIVING STATE AGREES TO ACCEPT HIM. THIS CAN TAKE TIME. IT IS BETTER FOR THE INMATE TO OBTAIN PAROLE IN GEORGIA AND, UPON RELEASE, IMMEDIATELY SEEK A TRANSFER OF HIS PAROLE TO THE STATE IN WHICH HE WISHES TO RESIDE.
Detainer and Conditional Transfer
A detainer indicating an inmate is wanted to face charges or serve a sentence may be filed with the DOC by authorities in Georgia, another state, the Federal system, or the military.
A detainer does not prevent an inmate from being considered by the Parole Board. The Board may parole the inmate “to the detainer,” known as a “Conditional Transfer,” and thereby transfer custody of the offender to the requesting authority. If that authority releases the offender before the end of the Georgia sentence, he or she becomes a parolee under the supervision of the Board.
Because detainers against Georgia inmates are filed with the DOC, all inquiries about them should be directed to that Department or to the detaining authority.
Waiver of Parole Consideration
An inmate may waive parole consideration by notifying the Board in writing. The Board honors this waiver and immediately halts all activity on the case such as pre-parole investigations. The inmate may withdraw his waiver the same way but only after it has been in effect thirty days.
Life Without Parole
Governor Zell Miller signed into law an act effective May 1, 1993, creating life without parole as a sentencing option in first degree murder cases containing certain aggravating circumstances.
Constitutional amendments effective January 1, 1995, mandate life-without-parole sentences for other crimes. An inmate receiving a second conviction for any serious violent felony must be sentenced to life without parole. These so-called “seven deadly sins” felonies are murder, rape, armed robbery, aggravated sodomy, kidnapping, aggravated child molestation and aggravated sexual battery.
The Board does not consider parole for inmates serving on these statutory or constitutionally derived life-without-parole sentences.
PRACTICE TIP: NOTWITHSTANDING THE ABOVE, THE BOARD CAN PARDON ANYONE WHO IS DETERMINED TO BE INNOCENT. THE BOARD CAN GRANT A MEDICAL REPRIEVE TO AN ENTIRELY INCAPACITATED PERSON SUFFERING A PROGRESSIVELY DEBILITATING TERMINAL ILLNESS. THE BOARD CAN PAROLE ANY PERSON WHO IS AGE 62 OR OLDER.
The Parole Board is not responsible for any operations of the State Prison system. Only the DOC administers the prisons, transfers an inmate from one prison to another, assigns an inmate to prison programs including work-release centers, makes an inmate a trusty, gives an inmate a furlough at special times like Thanksgiving and Christmas, computes time to be served, issues time sheets, provides medical care, grants visiting and mail privileges, and takes prison disciplinary action. Questions about those things and all other prison matters should be directed to the DOC.
Performance Incentive Credits
In 1992, the Georgia Legislature passed a law creating an inmate performance incentive credit program (PIC) Eligible inmates may have their TPM advanced up to a year by satisfactory progress in education/treatment programs, work, and good behavior. At the time of parole consideration, if parole is tentatively scheduled, the Board will set a TPM and, on the recommendation of the DOC, a PIC date. The time between the two dates will be the maximum amount of time that a TPM can be advanced for good conduct in prison. There is no limit on how much time can be added to a TPM for poor performance by the inmate.
Inmates serving life sentences, or who are in work-release programs, or who are in Boot Camp programs, or those sentenced to two years or less, or those with TPMs set at one third of their sentences, or who have been denied parole are not eligible to receive these credits. Other categories of inmates may also be ineligible for participation.
Shortly before the PIC review date, prison officials send the Board a report detailing the inmate’s institutional conduct, attitude and participation in rehabilitative programming, with a recommendation whether the Board should advance or delay the TPM. Regardless of this recommendation, a final decision to grant or deny PIC credits is left to the Board’s discretion. PIC credits may alter only the TPM and in no way affect the length of the sentence. Poor institutional conduct by an inmate often causes the Board to delay the TPM or to deny parole entirely.
PRACTICE TIP: There have been recent favorable changes to the PIC program. Detailed information on these changes can be obtained by reading the two articles on Performance Incentive Credit on the News section of this website.
When an inmate is paroled, he is placed under the supervision of a parole officer who explains the conditions of parole and prepares an individual case plan for that offender. The parole officer maintains frequent contact with the parolee through office meetings, and by visiting him at his home and job or in other settings such as treatment facilities. Supervision is the parole officer’s main duty. However, in addition to a surveillance role, the parole officer is a counselor who helps the parolee with any family, budget, or job-placement problems. The parole officer also refers the parolee to other community or government agencies as needed.
If the parolee does not respond to supervision and violates parole conditions, the parole officer assumes the role of an enforcement officer. The officer submits a report on the parolee’s misconduct to the Field Services Division central office, which may initiate revocation procedures.
Georgia parole officer candidates are required to have four-year college degrees. They receive intensive basic training, which meets requirements of the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Act, in firearms, arrest procedures, ethics, investigation and supervision procedures, surveillance techniques, and constitutional law, among other subjects. Parole officers are certified as peace officers with authority to carry firearms and arrest parolees.
Conditions of Parole
A person released on parole must agree to obey all conditions listed on his parole certificate. Violation of any condition may result in arrest and parole revocation. The standard conditions of parole, which apply to all parolees, include following all instructions from the parole officer, gainfully working, abiding by all laws, remaining in Georgia, receiving permission to change address, paying any court-ordered child support, paying a parole supervision fee or victim compensation fee and, if applicable, paying restitution. Parolees may not own or use a gun or other deadly weapon.
In addition, the Board may impose special conditions appropriate to the individual’s case, such as drug or alcohol treatment, mental health counseling, prohibitions on travel or associations, bans on driving, or compliance with electronic monitoring procedures
An offender serving time for a violent offense and who is subsequently paroled is automatically placed under electronic monitoring, an intense, around-the-clock form of surveillance and control. Certain other offenders are also placed under electronic monitoring, and the Board may, at is discretion, require any parolee to serve portions of his parole under this restriction.
Sex Offender Registration
Under laws enacted in 1994 and 1996, any person paroled while serving for a sex offense against a minor must, within 10 days of his release on parole, register his name and address with the county sheriff. For those convicted of crimes against minors, the parolee must also register with the school superintendent of the public school district in which he resides. The sex offender, according to his classification, will continue to register with the county sheriff at specified intervals and duration. Those determined to be sexually violent predators by the Sexual Offender Registration Board are required to register with the local sheriff every 90 days for the remainder of their lives. New laws which are beyond the scope of this presentation have made and will continue to make important changes in this area.
Supervision and Victim Compensation Fees
In November 1984 the Board began collecting a monthly supervision fee from every parolee with a supervision period of three months or longer. The money collected from parolees is deposited in the State treasury general fund.
Beginning in September 1991 parolees serving for violent offenses began paying a monthly victim compensation fee, which goes to the Georgia Crime Victims Emergency Fund.
Eligible parolees pay either the supervision fee or the victim compensation fee but not both. The Board may exempt parolees who, due to certain disabilities, may be unable to remit such payments without extreme hardship on them or their families.
The Board has the authority to change the amount of the supervision fee or victim compensation fee as long as it is uniform Statewide.
The Board began collecting court-ordered restitution in May 1993. The parole officer determines a reasonable monthly payment amount for the parolee and monitors his regular payments. Restitution monies are deposited with the Parole Board until the parolee discharges from parole or pays the amount in full. The entire amount is then transferred to the appropriate county’s probation office to be disbursed to the victim(s).
The Board also reserves the right to order restitution on its own, even if the courts have not issued a special condition.
Arrest of Parolee
When a parolee has reportedly violated a condition of his release, a Board warrant may be issued for his arrest. If the alleged violation is absconding from parole supervision or if the parolee is otherwise not available to the Board for a hearing, a temporary revocation order may be issued. This order suspends the running of the sentence from the date of the order.
PRACTICE TIP: IF THE PAROLEE HAS BEEN ARRESTED ON A NEW SUBSTANTIVE CHARGE, IT IS USUALLY FUTILE TO ATTEMPT TO OBTAIN A BOND ON THE NEW CHARGE SINCE, IF RELEASED ON THE NEW CHARGE, THE PAROLEE WILL BE HELD ON THE PAROLE VIOLATOR WARRANT.
Preliminary Hearing for Alleged Violator
A parolee arrested on a Board warrant for allegedly violating a parole condition is afforded a preliminary hearing within a reasonable time at or near the place of the alleged violation before a Board hearing officer not directly involved in the case. The purpose of the preliminary hearing is to determine whether there is probable cause to believe the parolee violated a parole condition and whether he should be held under arrest pending the Board’s decision on revocation.
A preliminary hearing is not required if the parolee is not under arrest on a Board warrant, has absconded from supervision, has signed a waiver of preliminary hearing, has admitted any alleged violation to any Board representative in the presence of a third party who is not a Board employee, or has been convicted of any new crime in a Georgia court, a court of another state, or a Federal court.
The parolee is given written notice of the preliminary hearing, allowing reasonable time to prepare his case. The parolee may retain counsel to represent him at the preliminary hearing. The parolee may present witnesses and documentary evidence in his own behalf, and he may cross-examine adverse witnesses unless the hearing officer determines that a witness would be subjected to risk of harm if his identity were disclosed. The parolee is invited to make statements and answer questions but is not required to do so.
The hearing officer may issue subpoenas to compel the attendance of witnesses resident within the county of the alleged violation. He may also issue subpoenas for the production of documents or other written evidence at the hearing.
After the preliminary hearing the hearing officer submits to the Board a written report on the testimony, on his findings, and on any decision to release the parolee on his personal recognizance. The Board then ratifies or overrules the hearing officer’s findings, including any decision to release, and decides whether to hold a final hearing.
Final Hearing for Alleged Violator
A parolee charged with violating a parole condition is afforded a final hearing within a reasonable time before the Board. The purpose of the final hearing is to determine whether the parolee has violated a parole condition and whether the violation warrants parole revocation.
The parolee is given written notice of the final hearing, allowing reasonable time to prepare his case. At the final hearing the parolee has the same rights a parolee has at a preliminary hearing as specified above.
The Board may subpoena witnesses from throughout Georgia to appear at the final hearing and may issue subpoenas for the production of documents or other written evidence at the hearing.
After the final hearing the Board decides by majority vote whether to continue or revoke parole.
No Final Hearing for Some Violators
A final hearing is not required if the parolee, free on his personal recognizance, fails to appear at his final hearing. The Board may summarily revoke his parole.
A final hearing is not required if the parolee has admitted the violation and signed a waiver of final hearing.
A final hearing is not permitted and revocation is mandatory by law if the parolee is sentenced by a Federal Court or a Georgia State or Superior Court to a term of imprisonment, including one reduced to time served, for any felony crime, or for a State misdemeanor involving physical injury to another, which the parolee committed during his parole term.
Discharge from Parole
When a person is released on parole, his projected prison discharge date becomes his projected date for discharge from parole supervision. When discharge from parole occurs, if all sentences from all jurisdictions have been completed, including any court-ordered payment, and if no criminal charge is pending, the Board’s discharge order may include a Restoration of Civil and Political Rights
Other Forms of Executive Clemency
REPRIEVE is the temporary suspension of a prison sentence to release an offender under conditions which, if violated, permit his re-imprisonment. The Parole Board may grant compassionate reprieves, medical reprieves, maternity reprieves, and reprieves for other suitable reasons.
A reprieve, unlike a parole, is a sentence suspension, but the Board usually credits reprieve time to an inmate’s sentence if he obeys all reprieve conditions. However, a reprievee returned to prison as a reprieve violator may receive no credit on his sentence for any time spent on reprieve.
PRACTICE TIP: A MEDICAL REPRIEVE BEGINS WITH THE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS. IT MUST THEN BE APPROVED BY THE BOARD. IT IS NOT UNUSUAL FOR THE DOC TO RECOMMEND A MEDICAL REPRIEVE AND THE BOARD TO THEN DENY IT.
COMMUTATION is the reduction of a sentence to a lesser sentence. The most common application is a commutation to credit an inmate’s sentence with time spent on reprieve if he completes the reprieve satisfactorily. Rarely used but essential to the State are two forms of executive clemency: commutation of an unjust sentence and commutation of a death sentence.
REMISSION of a sentence, as granted by the Parole Board, is the lessening of the duration of confinement without reducing the length of sentence. The Board may remit all or part of a confinement sentence to require it be served under parole supervision.
An offender whose confinement sentence is remitted to be served under parole supervision must report to a parole officer who will explain the release conditions.
PARDON is a declaration of record by the Parole Board that a person is relieved from the legal consequences of a particular conviction. It restores civil and political rights and removes legal disabilities resulting from conviction in a Georgia court of law. A pardon may be granted in two instances by the Board:
1. A pardon may be granted to a person who, to the Board’s satisfaction, proves his innocence of the crime for which he was convicted under Georgia law. Newly available evidence proving the person’s complete justification or non-guilt may be the basis for granting a pardon. Application may be submitted in any written form any time after conviction.
2. A pardon which does not imply innocence may be granted to an applicant convicted under Georgia law who has completed his full sentence obligation, including serving any probated sentence and paying any court-ordered payment, and who has thereafter completed five years without any criminal involvement. The five-year waiting period after sentence completion may be waived if the waiting period is shown to be detrimental to the applicant’s livelihood by delaying his qualifying for employment in his chosen profession. Application must be made by the ex-offender on a form available from the Board on request.
No pardon is automatic; the Board judges the merits of each individual case.
Restoration of Firearm Rights
Under Georgia law conviction of a felony removes the right to receive, possess, and transport a firearm. A pardon applicant may request that the pardon be specially worded to restore this firearm right, but he must provide in detail his reason for the request. The applicant should also understand that the restoration of the firearm right only removes disabilities occurring by operation of Georgia law. It provides no exemption from the firearm laws of other states or the Federal government.
Board policy is to deny restoration of the firearm right to a pardon applicant who possessed a firearm during the commission of an offense.
Removal of Disability Incurred by Conviction
Under Georgia law a person convicted of a “felony involving moral turpitude” loses his civil and political rights, including the right to vote, the right to hold public office, and the right to serve on a jury. Under the 1983 State Constitution the right to vote is restored automatically to ex-offenders who have completed their sentences.
A person who was convicted under Georgia law may apply to the Parole Board for a Restoration of Civil and Political Rights. If the person was convicted under another state’s law or under Federal law but is residing in Georgia and wishes to exercise civil and political rights in the State, he also may apply.
A Restoration of Civil and Political Rights carries no implication of innocence. It may be granted only to a person who has completed his full sentence or, with no probation unserved, has been discharged early by commutation.
A Restoration may, upon specific application and with specific wording, restore the right to receive, possess and transport a firearm to a felon living in Georgia but convicted in Federal or another state’s court. Applicants are required to meet the same criteria outlined for Georgia felons in preceding topics.
The Board automatically considers restoring civil and political rights to a felony parolee upon discharge from parole if he has no other sentence to serve or pending criminal charge against him.
Click to see Parole Guidelines Appendix