With relative frequency I’ve been asked advice on how to best prepare an inmate for his or her application for discretionary release to parole supervision. Such requests have come from loved ones of inmates incarcerated in a number of different states. I’ve therefore elected create this thread for this purpose.
When it comes to parole board appearances, every state is different in some way. For example, some states allow inmate applicants to be represented by counsel, while others do not. Similarly, some states allow family members and loved ones of release applicants to personally appear, while others do not. But, several things hold true with all states, the most important of which being that parole applicants have the right to submit for consideration documentary evidence in support of their cause, together with letters from family members, friends, employers, and others advocating for release and/or expressing a willingness to help the inmate upon being granted release.
There are a number of different trains of thought when it comes to the release application process. For example, in states where attorneys are permitted to represent an inmate applicant at his or her board appearance, some are of the belief that the presence of a lawyer is looked upon as an attempt to somehow coerce release or intimidate parole officials, and is thus unfavorable, while others subscribe to the belief that the presence of retained counsel is favorable to the extent that such demonstrates family members are willing to sacrifice financially to bring their loved ones home. At the same time, the personal appearance and/or support letters of loved ones can be, and oftentimes are, largely disregarded by parole authorities.
My suggestion has always been, and will always be, the compilation and filing of what is commonly known as a Proposed Parole release Plan (“PPRP”), regardless of state. A comprehensive PPRP consists of much information. Not at all uncommon is for one to include family background, educational, vocational and/or professional accomplishments, an objective analysis of what led the offender to criminality, a detailed recitation of institutional accomplishments, an explanation as to the reason(s) for sustained incidents of institutional misconduct, assurances of meaningful employment and acceptable housing upon release, plans for continued rehabilitative programming upon release, and more. A PPRP oftentimes also includes a copy of the PSI (Pre-sentence Investigation) compiled by probation officials or the prosecution (usually very unfavorable) and documentary evidence refuting aggravating factors therein alleged. Remember always that such reports are always available to parole officials.
PPRPs can be compiled by legal professionals, the inmate, or by loved ones. Rarely, however, can an inmate or his/her loved one view the matter objectively for the fact of their personal connection. The ones I’ve seen compiled by family members or loved ones – and a few have been quite good – usually fail to include important information … understandably, again because of their personal attachment and interest. It is for this primary reason that I’ve always thought best that a PPRP be compiled by someone with the ability to be entirely objective; someone in no way connected to the inmate applicant.
I therefore religiously recommend that a PPRP be compiled by a professional who has undergone legal training and who has a good working knowledge of what parole officials are looking for. And I also usually recommend that while a legal professional compile the PPRP, it be signed and submitted by the inmate. I do this because of what has been conveyed to me by parole officials in the past. Several have told me that a PPRP signed and submitted by an attorney is sometimes viewed as an attempt to purchase parole release, while the same PPRP, signed and submitted by the inmate applicant, oftentimes indicates to officials that he/she has spent a lot of time preparing for their release and is thus ready for it.
The cost of a PPRP necessarily varies from case to case, from state to state, and from preparer to preparer. On average, one could expect to pay somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,000 to $3,500, sometimes more, sometimes less, again depending on such variables.
Whether or not the investment is worth the risk is a decision left exclusively to viewers here. To aid in that decision-making process, I’ll share the following:
1) Statistics show inmates filing PPRPs have a better chance at discretionary release than inmates who do not.
2) The average parole “set-off” or “hit” is about two years (in other words, release denied for two years before reconsideration).
3) If one was to pay a professional the high end of $3,500 for a PPRP, and its compilation and submission saved your inmate two tears of imprisonment, it would have cost you less than $5.00 per day to have your inmate home.
Finally, because obtaining the many records necessary to compile a good PPRP can take several months, suggested is that those of you considering one retain professional assistance (or begin the process yourself) at least 6 to 8 months prior to your inmate’s scheduled release interview, and in extraordinarily complex cases, another couple of months or so earlier yet.
Hopefully this post will prove useful. Good luck to all.