The parole interview conducted by the Parole Board decision makers is an opportunity to review each incarcerated individual. Every decision maker discusses the person’s criminal history and institutional conduct and program participation. Each decision maker considers the person’s needs and risks. For the parole interview, risk is defined as the likelihood an incarcerated individual might commit another crime. Decision makers try to determine how much an inmate’s risk has been reduced while incarcerated by examining the impact of the treatment or programming.
It is important for the incarcerated individual, in addition to his/her family members, loved ones or friends, to understand the following information.
Parole Board decision makers want to see that the incarcerated individual has reduced his/her risk of re-offending. The person should:
• Take responsibility for the crime(s);
• Complete his/her prescribed programming;
• Make sure copies of all successful completion paperwork is given to the institutional parole staff;
• Work on finding a job;
• Secure a place to live upon release that will help him/her be successful on parole;
• Show positive adjustment to prison by having no recent misconducts and receiving the Department of Correction’s recommendation for parole; and,
• Pay any victim restitution and costs and fines to the greatest extent possible while incarcerated.
Often, the Parole Board is challenged by public perception that the incarcerated person “comes in to the interview, tells the decision maker what he or she thinks they want to hear or are expected to say, and the person is just paroled.” This unfortunate opinion is entirely incorrect.
During the parole interview, Parole Board decision makers look for whether the person has insight into why he/she committed the crime and an appreciation and understanding of the harm he/she caused to the victim. Standard, “automatic” responses like “I accept full responsibility for my crime” or “I would take it back if I could” are not helpful in demonstrating insight. Decision makers look for realistic, specific plans for living in the community after release, including an indication that the person has thought through the challenges he/she will face after incarceration. For example, detailed plans for maintaining sobriety are important for people whose addictions caused their criminal conduct. This type of information should be shared by the inmate with the decision maker(s) during the interview.
According to §6135(a) of the Parole Code, the Parole Board shall consider the following factors when a person is eligible for parole:
- The nature and circumstances of the offense committed.
- Any recommendations made by the trial judge and prosecuting attorney.
- The general character and background of the inmate.
- Participation by an inmate sentenced after February 19, 1999, and who is serving a sentence for a crime of violence as defined in 42 Pa.C.S. § 9714(g) (relating to sentences for second and subsequent offenses) in a victim impact education program offered by the Department of Corrections.
- The written or personal statement of the testimony of the victim or the victim's family submitted under section 6140 (relating to victim statements, testimony and participation in hearing).
- The notes of testimony of the sentencing hearing, if any, together with such additional information regarding the nature and circumstances of the offense committed for which sentence was imposed as may be available.
- The conduct of the person while in prison and his physical, mental and behavioral condition and history, his history of family violence and his complete criminal record.