Making Parole Decisions
The Pennsylvania Parole Board (Board) uses a valid and reliable risk and needs assessment instrument to assist with parole decisions, as well as other nationally recognized assessments.
When determining if an inmate is ready to be paroled, the Board’s decision makers use these principles to guide their decisions:
• Defer to the sentencing court regarding issue of appropriate punishment
• The sentencing court is the arbiter of just punishment
• Ensure all inmates are accurately and consistently evaluated for their readiness to parole to enhance public safety and use a structured decisional instrument
• Because of the significant stakes involved in violent crimes, the Board evaluates violent offenses at a more stringent standard than non-violent offenses
• The Board supports order and safety within the state Department of Corrections (DOC)
The parole interview is conducted to:
1. Address with the inmate both criminal history and institutional conduct, program participation, and consider needs and risks.
2. Assess the adequacy of treatment or programming while incarcerated, at the point of reentry and on an ongoing basis in the community.
Human behavior is difficult to predict. A risk assessment is a statistical tool that does not predict which individual will re-offend, but identifies groups likely to re-offend. The risk assessment may place an inmate in a high risk group, but specifically which inmate in the group will re-offend is difficult to identify.
The Parole Decisional Instrument
The Board uses a Parole Decisional Instrument (PBPP 361) to analyze individual cases and guide consistency in decision making. The instrument is a guide to advise the decision maker. It does not replace professional discretion and does not bind the Board to grant or deny parole, or create a right, presumption or reasonable expectation that parole will be granted.
The Board is required by law to consider the following factors when considering parole:
• The nature and circumstances of the crime for which the inmate was convicted, as well as his/her entire criminal history, including any juvenile arrests or adjudications
• Information regarding the general character and background of the inmate
• Notes on the sentencing hearing testimony
• Emotional stability: physical, mental and behavioral condition and history of the inmate
• History of family violence
• Recommendation of the sentencing judge and prosecuting attorney
• Input from the victim and the victim’s family
• Recommendation from the warden or superintendent of the facility where the inmate is incarcerated
Other requirements considered are the status of program completion and the person’s adjustment to prison. The Board looks at all misconducts, but concentrates on those that occurred within the past two years.
After the Interview, the decision to grant or refuse parole is recorded. The Board Action is the public record that documents the decision of the Board to grant or deny parole. It is/was commonly called the “green sheet” because it used to be printed on green paper. The Board Action contains the decision to:
• Parole and the reasons for granting parole and the conditions of supervision
• Refuse parole with specific requirements to be fulfilled by the time of the next parole review (usually 6 months to 1 year) and the reasons for denying parole
Each case that has an interview is voted on by the Board Members and Hearing Examiners. How many votes are required per case is determined by the type of offense.