Parole may have different meanings depending on the field and judiciary system. All of the meanings originated from the French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

 parole (“voice”, “spoken word”). Following its use in late-resurrected Anglo-French chivalric practice, the term became associated with the release of prisoners based on prisoners giving their word of honor to abide by certain restrictions. One proposed reform is that parole bond
Parole bond
A parole bond is a deposit of money or property made to the government as surety that a paroled prisoner will not violate the terms of his release. The prisoner may fund the bond himself; or he may borrow from friends or family; or he may obtain the services of a bondsman, in exchange for a fee...

s be used to encourage defendants not to re-offend. Parole should not be confused with probation
Probation literally means testing of behaviour or abilities. In a legal sense, an offender on probation is ordered to follow certain conditions set forth by the court, often under the supervision of a probation officer...

, as parole is serving the remainder of a sentence outside of prison, where probation is given instead of a prison sentence and as such, tends to place more rigid obligations upon the individual serving the term.

Criminal justice

In criminal justice systems, parole is the supervised release of a prisoner before the completion of their sentence in prison. This differs from amnesty
Amnesty is a legislative or executive act by which a state restores those who may have been guilty of an offense against it to the positions of innocent people, without changing the laws defining the offense. It includes more than pardon, in as much as it obliterates all legal remembrance of the...

 or commutation of sentence
Commutation of sentence
Commutation of sentence involves the reduction of legal penalties, especially in terms of imprisonment. Unlike a pardon, a commutation does not nullify the conviction and is often conditional. Clemency is a similar term, meaning the lessening of the penalty of the crime without forgiving the crime...

 in that parolees are still considered to be serving their sentences, and may be returned to prison if they violate the conditions of their parole. A specific type of parole is medical parole or compassionate release
Compassionate release
Compassionate release is a legal system that grants inmates early release from prison sentences on special grounds such as terminal illness or a child in the community with an urgent need for his or her incarcerated guardian...

 which is the release of prisoners on medical or humanitarian grounds. Conditions of parole often include things such as obeying the law, refraining from drug and alcohol use, avoiding contact with the parolee's victims, obtaining employment, and maintaining required contacts with a parole officer. Some justice systems, such as the United States federal system, place defendants on supervised release after serving their entire prison sentence; this is not the same as parole.
In Colorado, parole is an additional punishment after the entire prison sentence is served - it is called 'mandatory parole', per §18-1.3-401(1)(a)(V)(B).

Difference between parole and mandatory supervision

Some states in the US have what is known as "mandatory supervision," whereby an inmate is released prior to the completion of their sentence due to legal technicalities which oblige the offender justice system to free them. In some states such as Texas, inmates are compensated with "good time," which is counted towards time served. For example, if an inmate served five years of a ten year prison term, and also had five years of "good time," they will have completed their sentence "on paper," obliging the state to release them. Where parole is granted or denied at the discretion of a parole board, mandatory supervision does not involve a decision making process: one either qualifies for it or does not. Mandatory supervision tends to involve stipulations that are more lenient than those of parole, and in some cases place no obligations at all on the individual being released.

Early history of parole

Alexander Maconochie
Alexander Maconochie (penal reformer)
Alexander Maconochie was a Scottish naval officer, geographer, and penal reformer.- Early life :Maconochie was born in Edinburgh on 11 February 1787. He joined the Royal Navy in 1803 and as a midshipman he saw active service in the Napoleonic Wars and was a prisoner of war from 1811 to 1814...

, a Scottish geographer and captain in the British Royal Navy, introduced the modern idea of parole when, in 1840, he was appointed superintendent of the English penal colonies in Norfolk Island
Norfolk Island
Norfolk Island is a small island in the Pacific Ocean located between Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia. The island is part of the Commonwealth of Australia, but it enjoys a large degree of self-governance...

, Australia. He developed a plan to prepare them for eventual return to society that involved three grades. The first two consisted of promotions earned through good behavior, labor, and study. The third grade in the system involved conditional liberty outside of prison while obeying rules. A violation would return them to prison and starting all over again through the ranks of the three grade process.


In China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

, prisoners are often granted medical parole or compassionate release
Compassionate release
Compassionate release is a legal system that grants inmates early release from prison sentences on special grounds such as terminal illness or a child in the community with an urgent need for his or her incarcerated guardian...

, which releases them on the grounds that they must receive medical treatment which cannot be provided for in prison. Occasionally, medical parole is used as a no-publicity way of releasing an accidentally imprisoned convict.

The Chinese legal code has no explicit provision for exile, but often a dissident is released on the grounds that they need to be treated for a medical condition in another country, and with the understanding that they will be reincarcerated if they return to China. Dissidents who have been released on medical parole include Ngawang Chophel
Ngawang Chophel
Ngawang Choephel is a Tibetan ethnomusicologist, filmmaker, and political prisoner.-Overview:Choephel was born in Tibet in 1966, but his family fled to India in 1968. He later went to the USA to study ethnomusicology through the Fulbright program in 1993 and 1994 at Middlebury College. He returned...

, Ngawang Sangdrol
Ngawang Sangdrol
Ngawang Sangdrol is a former political prisoner, imprisoned by the Government of the People's Republic of China, for peacefully demonstrating against the Chinese occupation of Tibet in 1992...

, Phuntsog Nyidron
Phuntsog Nyidron
Phuntsog Nyidron is a Tibetan Buddhist nun and a former high-profile prisoner in Tibet. In 1989, she and eight other nuns traveled from her hometown to the provincial capital of Lhasa when it was convulsed by Tibetan independence protests and riots, and handed out leaflets and shouted anti-Chinese...

, Takna Jigme Zangpo
Takna Jigme Zangpo
Takna Jigme Zangpo or Takna Jigme Sangpo is the longest-serving political prisoner of Tibetan ethnicity, having spent 37 years in a prison near Lhasa. First imprisoned in 1964, he was released from prison on a medical parole on 31 March 2002 having reached the age of 76...

, Wang Dan, Wei Jingsheng
Wei Jingsheng
Wei Jingsheng is a Chinese activist known for his involvement in the Chinese democracy movement, most prominent for authoring the document Fifth Modernization on the "Democracy Wall" in Beijing in 1978. He is generally known for getting arrested and spending 15 years in prison due to the document...

, Gao Zhan
Gao Zhan
Gao Zhan is a researcher who worked at the American University in Washington, DC. In 2001, the government of the People's Republic of China detained her for 166 days on the grounds that she was spying for Taiwan...

 and Fang Lizhi
Fang Lizhi
Fang Lizhi is a professor of astrophysics and former vice-president of the University of Science and Technology of China whose liberal ideas inspired the pro-democracy student movement of 1986-87 and, finally, the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989...



Libertà condizionata is covered by Article 176 of the Italian Penal Code. A prisoner is eligible if he has served at least 30 months (or 26 years for life sentences), and the time remaining on his sentence is less than half the total (normally), a quarter of the total (if previously convicted or never convicted) or five years (for sentences greater than 7.5 years). In 2006, 21 inmates were granted libertà condizionata.

New Zealand

In New Zealand, inmates serving a short term sentence (of up to 2 years) are automatically released after serving half their sentence, and there is no parole hearing. Inmates serving sentences of more than 2 years are normally seen before the parole board after serving one-third of the sentence, although the judge at sentencing can make an order for a minimum non-parole period of up to two-thirds of the sentence. Inmates serving life sentences usually serve a minimum of 10 years, or longer depending on the minimum non-parole period, before being eligible for parole.
It should be noted, however, that parole is not an automatic right, and for the year ending 30 June 2010 more than 70% of parole hearings were declined. Many sentences include a specific non-parole period.

Early history

Penologist Zebulon Brockway
Zebulon Brockway
Zebulon Reed Brockway was a penologist and is sometimes regarded as the "Father of prison reform" in the United States.Brockway was born in Lyme, Connecticut in 1828 and began his career as a prison guard at the state prison in Wethersfield, Connecticut at age 20. Brockway became a clerk at the...

 first introduced parole when he became superintendent of Elmira Reformatory
Elmira Correctional Facility
Elmira Correctional Facility, known otherwise as "the Hill", is a maximum security prison located in New York in the USA. The prison is located in Chemung County, New York in the City of Elmira...

 in New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

 state. In order to manage prison populations and rehabilitate those incarcerated he instituted a two part strategy that consisted of indeterminate sentences and parole releases.

Modern history

In the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, courts may specify in a sentence how much time must be served before a prisoner is eligible for parole. This is often done by specifying an indeterminate sentence of, say, "15 to 25 years," or "15 years to life". The latter type is known as an indeterminate life sentence; in contrast, a sentence of "life without the possibility of parole" is known as a determinate life sentence.

In most states, the decision of whether an inmate is paroled is vested in a paroling authority such as a parole board. Mere good conduct while incarcerated in and of itself does not necessarily guarantee that an inmate will be paroled. Other factors may enter into the decision to grant or deny parole, most commonly the establishment of a permanent residence and immediate, gainful employment or some other clearly visible means of self-support upon release (such as Social Security
Social Security (United States)
In the United States, Social Security refers to the federal Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance program.The original Social Security Act and the current version of the Act, as amended encompass several social welfare and social insurance programs...

 if the prisoner is old enough to qualify). Many states now permit sentences of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole (such as for murder
Murder is the unlawful killing, with malice aforethought, of another human being, and generally this state of mind distinguishes murder from other forms of unlawful homicide...

 and espionage
Espionage or spying involves an individual obtaining information that is considered secret or confidential without the permission of the holder of the information. Espionage is inherently clandestine, lest the legitimate holder of the information change plans or take other countermeasures once it...

), and any prisoner not sentenced to either this or the death penalty will eventually have the right to petition
Right to petition
The right to petition government for redress of grievances is the right to make a complaint to, or seek the assistance of, one's government, without fear of punishment or reprisals.-United States:...

 for release (one state Alaska
Alaska is the largest state in the United States by area. It is situated in the northwest extremity of the North American continent, with Canada to the east, the Arctic Ocean to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the west and south, with Russia further west across the Bering Strait...

maintains neither the death penalty nor life imprisonment without parole as sentencing options).

Before being granted the privilege of parole, the inmate meets with members of the parole board and is interviewed, The parolee also has a psychological exam. The inmate must first agree to abide by the conditions of parole set by the paroling authority. While in prison, the inmate signs a parole certificate or contract. On this contract are the conditions that the inmate must follow. These conditions usually require the parolee to meet regularly with his or her parole officer or community corrections agent, who assesses the behavior and adjustment of the parolee and determines whether the parolee is violating any of his or her terms of release (typically these include being at home during certain hours which is called a curfew, maintaining steady employment, not absconding, refraining from illicit drug use and sometimes, abstaining from alcohol
In chemistry, an alcohol is an organic compound in which the hydroxy functional group is bound to a carbon atom. In particular, this carbon center should be saturated, having single bonds to three other atoms....

), attend drug or alcohol counseling, have no contact with their victim. The inmate gives an address which is verified by parole officers as valid before inmate is released on to parole supervision.

Upon release, the parolee goes to a parole office and is assigned a parole officer. Parole officers go to parolees' houses or apartments to check on them as unannounced visits. During these home visits officers look for signs of drug or alcohol use, no guns or illegal weapons are in the parolees residence, and look for signs of other illegal activities. Should parolees start to use drugs or alcohol, they are told to go to drug or alcohol counseling and NA or AA meeting. Should they not comply with conditions on the parole certificate a warrant is issued for their arrest. Their parole time is stopped when the warrant is issued and starts only after they are arrested. They have a parole violation hearing
Morrissey Hearing
Morrissey v. Brewer, 408 U.S. 471 , is a U.S. Supreme Court case that provides for a hearing to determine the factual basis for parole violations. This hearing is colloquially known as a "Morrissey hearing."...

 within a specified time, and then a decision is made by the parole board to revoke their parole or continue the parolee on parole. In some cases, a parolee may be discharged from parole before the time called for in the original sentence if it is determined that the parole restrictions are no longer necessary for the protection of society (this most frequently occurs when elderly parolees are involved).

Service members who commit crimes while in the US military may be subject to Court Martial proceedings under the Uniform Code of Military Justice
Uniform Code of Military Justice
The Uniform Code of Military Justice , is the foundation of military law in the United States. It is was established by the United States Congress in accordance with the authority given by the United States Constitution in Article I, Section 8, which provides that "The Congress shall have Power . ....

 (UCMJ). If found guilty, they may be sent to Federal or Military Prisons and upon release may be supervised by U.S./Federal Probation
Federal Probation
The Federal Probation Service or United States Probation Service is part of the Federal Judiciary and serves the United States district courts in all 94 judicial federal districts nationwide and constitutes the community corrections arm of the Federal Judiciary...


Parole is a controversial political topic in the United States. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, at least sixteen states have abolished parole entirely, and four more have abolished parole for certain violent offenders. During elections, politicians whose administrations parole any large number of prisoners (or, perhaps, one notorious criminal) are typically attacked by their opponents as being "soft on crime". The US Department of Justice (DOJ) stated in 2005 that about 45% of parolees completed their sentences successfully, while 38% were returned to prison, and 11% absconded. These statistics, the DOJ says, are relatively unchanged since 1995; even so, some states (including New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

) have abolished parole altogether for violent felons, and the federal government abolished it in 1984 for all offenders convicted of a federal crime, whether violent or not. Despite the decline in jurisdictions with a functioning parole system, the average annual growth of parolees was an increase of about 1.5% per year between 1995 and 2002.

A variant of parole is known as "time off for good behavior", or, colloquially, "good time". Unlike the traditional form of parole which may be granted or denied at the discretion of a parole board time off for good behavior is automatic absent a certain number (or gravity) of infractions committed by a convict while incarcerated (in most jurisdictions the released inmate is placed under the supervision of a parole officer for a certain amount of time after being so released). In some cases "good time" can reduce the original sentence by as much as one-third. It is usually not made available to inmates serving life sentences, as there is no release date that can be moved up.

US immigration law

In US immigration law
Immigration law
Immigration law refers to national government policies which control the phenomenon of immigration to their country.Immigraton law, regarding foreign citizens, is related to nationality law, which governs the legal status of people, in matters such as citizenship...

, the term parole has three different meanings.

A person who does not meet the technical requirements for a visa may be allowed to enter the U.S. for humanitarian purposes. Persons who are allowed to enter the U.S. in this manner are known as parolees.

Another use related to immigration is advance parole, in which a person who already legally resides in the U.S. needs to leave temporarily and return without a visa. This typically occurs when a person's application for a green card
United States Permanent Resident Card
United States lawful permanent residency refers to a person's immigration status: the person is authorized to live and work in the United States of America on a permanent basis....

 (permanent residency) is in process and the person must leave the U.S. for emergency or business reasons. In the wake of September 11, 2001, there has been greater scrutiny of applications for advance parole.

A person who goes out of the country on "advanced parole" has to go through the following process:
Canada by road: US Immigration officers will require you to submit one parole document to them. They will stamp your passport and another parole document, and issue a new I-94 form.

The term is also used to denote scenarios in which the federal government orders the release of an alien inmate incarcerated in a state prison before that inmate's sentence has been completed, with the stipulation that the inmate be immediately deported, and never permitted to return to the United States. The most celebrated example of this form of parole was that of Lucky Luciano
Lucky Luciano
Charlie "Lucky" Luciano was an Italian mobster born in Sicily. Luciano is considered the father of modern organized crime in the United States for splitting New York City into five different Mafia crime families and the establishment of the first commission...

, who was being "rewarded" for cooperating with the war effort during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. In most cases where such parole is resorted to, however, the federal government has deemed that the need for the immediate deportation of the inmate outweighs the state's interest in meting out punishment for the crime the inmate committed.

Prisoners of war

Parole is "the agreement of persons who have been taken prisoner by an enemy that they will not again take up arms against those who captured them, either for a limited time or during the continuance of the war". The US Department of Defense defines parole more broadly. "Parole agreements are promises given the captor by a POW to fulfill stated conditions, such as not to bear arms or not to escape, in consideration of special privileges, such as release from captivity or lessened restraint."

The practice of paroling enemy troops began thousands of years ago, at least as early as the time of Carthage. Parole allowed the prisoners' captors to avoid the burdens of having to feed and care for them, while still avoiding having the prisoners rejoin their old ranks once released; it could also allow the captors to recover their own men in a prisoner exchange. Hugo Grotius
Hugo Grotius
Hugo Grotius , also known as Huig de Groot, Hugo Grocio or Hugo de Groot, was a jurist in the Dutch Republic. With Francisco de Vitoria and Alberico Gentili he laid the foundations for international law, based on natural law...

, an early international lawyer, favorably discussed prisoner of war parole. During the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

, both the Dix-Hill Cartel
Dix-Hill Cartel
The Dix–Hill Cartel was an agreement concluded on July 22, 1862 between the Confederate and Union governments to handle the general exchange of prisoners of war. The negotiators were Union Major General John A. Dix and Confederate Major General D. H. Hill...

 and the Lieber Code
Lieber Code
The Lieber Code of April 24, 1863, also known as Instructions for the Government of Armies of the United States in the Field, General Order № 100, or Lieber Instructions, was an instruction signed by President Abraham Lincoln to the Union Forces of the United States during the American Civil War...

 set out rules regarding prisoner of war parole. Francis Lieber
Francis Lieber
Francis Lieber , known as Franz Lieber in Germany, was a German-American jurist, gymnast and political philosopher. He edited an Encyclopaedia Americana...

's thoughts on parole later reappeared in the Declaration of Brussels of 1874, the Hague Convention
Hague Conventions (1899 and 1907)
The Hague Conventions were two international treaties negotiated at international peace conferences at The Hague in the Netherlands: The First Hague Conference in 1899 and the Second Hague Conference in 1907...

, and the Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War.

In the United States, current policy prohibits US soldiers who are prisoners of war from accepting parole. The Code of Conduct for the US Armed Forces states: "I will accept neither parole nor special favors from the enemy." This position is reiterated by the Department of Defense. "The United States does not authorise any Military Service member to sign or enter into any such parole agreement."

See also

  • Parol evidence rule
    Parol evidence rule
    The parol evidence rule is a substantive common law rule in contract cases that prevents a party to a written contract from presenting extrinsic evidence that contradicts or adds to the written terms of the contract that appears to be whole...

  • Ticket of leave
  • Release on temporary licence
  • ParoleWatch
    ParoleWatch was a website that provided public access to data on convicted felons in New York State who were coming up for parole review. The project's aim was to let citizens "communicate their views on would-be parolees to the New York State Parole Board."...

  • Rehabilitation Policy
    Rehabilitation Policy
    Rehabilitation policies are those that intend to reform criminal offenders rather than punish them or segregate them from the greater community.-History:...

External links

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