Parole consideration for lifers
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Parole consideration for lifers
I hope this comes out OK as it loses it's format when pasted here. It's taken me a while to remove the .pdf formats from the Parole Handbook produced by Fairness for Prisoners Families. For the complete Handbook, see the sticky for the link. I've also attached a word document of this for easier printing - and reading.
Chapter 3: Parole Consideration for People Serving Life Sentences
THE TWO TYPES OF LIFE SENTENCES
There are two types of life sentences:
1. Life with possible Parole (also known as “life”): This sentence means that the person may be considered for parole at some time. This chapter is about people with this sentence.
Note: A life sentence does not mean that a person will get parole, only that he or she may be considered for parole.
2. Life without Parole (also known as “LWOP”): This sentence means that the person will never be considered for parole and will have to spend the rest of his or her life behind bars.
DIFFERENT PAROLE CONSIDERATION PROCESS FOR PEOPLE SERVING LIFE SENTENCES
The Parole Board does not use the Parole Decision Guidelines Grid System (also called the Grid System). (See Chapters 7, 8, and 9 for details about the Grid System.)
Georgia law prohibits the use of the Grid System for people serving life because of the seriousness of the crimes that draw life sentences. (Official Code of Georgia, 42-9-40.)
Parole Consideration for lifers is based on the seriousness the crime, and what its impact was on the victim and the community. Other factors, like behavior record in prison, are not as important in the cases of people serving life sentences as they might be for others.
There are no written guidelines for considering people serving life sentences. The Parole Board will not specify what the parole consideration process is for lifers.
Ø When Georgians for Equal Justice asked the Parole Board for details about parole consideration for lifers it made the following statement: “[People serving life sentences] are evaluated independently based on the totality of the info in the inmate’s file.”
THE TIME WHEN PAROLE DECISIONS FOR LIFERS ARE MADE
The final Parole Decision isn’t made for Lifers until they become Parole Eligible by law. (See Chapter 22 for details about Parole Eligibility.)
Ø Parole Eligibility for people serving Life is at 7, 14, 25 or 30 years, depending on the crime and previous convictions. (See Appendix A for details about when people with life sentences become parole eligible.)
§ Drug charges and other “non-violent” crimes: after 7 years behind bars.
§ “Violent” crimes: after 14, 25 or 30 years, depending on the number and type of previous or concurrent convictions.
Ø Even though the final parole decision won’t come for 7, 14, 25 or 30 years, the Pre-Parole Investigation begins soon as the person enters the state system. (See Chapters 5 and 6 for details about the Pre-Parole Investigation.)
PEOPLE SERVING LIFE HAVE NO “MAX OUT DATE”
In Georgia, there is no “max out date” (maximum release date) for people serving life sentences.
Ø The sentence, “life with possible parole” only means that the Parole Board may consider for parole people with that sentence. It doesn’t mean that lifers have a legal right to get parole.
Ø The Parole Board can deny parole to a person serving life until that person dies in prison.
PAROLE RECONSIDERATION (“SET OFF” DATE) FOR PEOPLE SERVING LIFE
The Reconsideration Date, also called the “set off” date, is the date the Parole Board will next consider a person for parole, after he or she has been denied.
Lifers who are denied parole are reconsidered at least within the next eight years.
Ø The Parole Board can give a Reconsideration Date anywhere from the time a person was denied to eight years in the future.
Ø The Reconsideration Date is given on the letter the Parole Board sends the person after his or her parole decision has been made.
Ø If no Reconsideration Date is set by the Parole Board, the person will be reviewed automatically within the next 8 years.
PRE-PAROLE INVESTIGATION AND PAROLE REVIEW FOR PEOPLE SERVING LIFE SENTENCES
The Pre-Parole Investigation is the same for people serving life as it is for all other people in prison. (See Chapter 5 and 6 for details about the Pre-Parole Investigation.)
Ø The purpose of the Pre-Parole Investigation is to gather information about the person to be used in the parole decision.
Ø The Pre-Parole Investigation begins when the person gets to the GDC Diagnostic Center, as it does for non-lifers.
Parole Review for lifers is the same process as for everyone else in prison. (See Chapter 12 for details about Parole Review.)
Ø New information in the parole file is taken into account.
Ø The GDC sends a Parole Review Summary that shows the person’s behaviour record in prison, and the programs or training he or she has completed.
Parole Review takes place when the person becomes Parole Eligible
The time a person serving life becomes Parole Eligible depends on the crime, how many previous convictions he or she has had, and what the previous crimes were. (See Appendix A for the Georgia Laws regarding Parole Eligibility.)
Chapter 4: Step by Step Summary of the Parole Consideration Process
The Parole Consideration Process in Georgia begins as soon as someone is sentenced. The process ends with the Parole Board’s decision.
STEP ONE: The Georgia Department of Corrections sends a Sentencing Packet to the Parole Board.
As soon as the person is convicted and sentenced, the Clerk of the Court sends the Georgia Department of Corrections (GDC) a sentencing sheet. The sentencing sheet has the crime and the person’s sentence.
Ø The GDC uses the sentencing sheet to figure:
§ The person’s maximum time to serve and maximum release date, or “max-out date.”
§ Whether or not he or she is Parole Eligible, and when.
§ The GDC makes a Sentencing Packet with this information and sends it to the Parole Board, where it becomes part of the person’s parole file.
STEP TWO: As soon as someone is transferred from the county jail to the GDC Diagnostic Center, a Pre-Parole Investigation begins to gather information that will be used by the Parole Board.
See Chapters 5 and 6 for details about the Pre-Parole Investigation
The Pre-Parole investigation begins at the GDC Diagnostic Center, which is the first place a person goes from the county jail.
Ø At the Diagnostic Center, the person is given medical and other tests and gets his or her security rating.
Ø From the Diagnostic Center, the person will be transferred to the state prison at which he or she may serve most or all the sentence.
The purpose of the Pre-Parole Investigation to give the Parole Board information it will use in making its decision.
Ø The Pre-Parole Investigation has three parts: the Personal Statement, the Social Investigation, and the Legal Investigation Record.
1. Personal Statement Form
At the Diagnostic Center, a parole investigator interviews the person and fills out a Personal Statement Form, which will go into the person’s parole file.
§ The Personal Statement Form is the person’s chance to talk about his or her:
v Family, education and job history
v Health or other things that have been an important in his or her life
v Past criminal record
v His or her side of the story about the crime he or she was convicted of, and the way the trial or plea went other things he or she feels is important to tell the parole investigator
2. Social Investigation
The purpose of the Social Investigation is to see if what the person said in the Personal History Statement is true, and to add things he or she may have left out.
§ A parole officer in the county where the person lived starts the Social Investigation by visiting the person’s family and other people in the community.
3. Legal Investigation Record
A parole officer in the county where the person was convicted gets the court records on the person’s conviction and other case-related materials required by law.
§ The parole officer also gets information about any past convictions or arrests.
§ For certain violent crimes, a parole officer or other parole investigator has the option of contacting the victim or victim’s family for information about how the crime has continuing effect of the crime on the victim’s life or the life of his or her family.
STEP THREE: A Hearing Examiner prepares the person’s parole file to go to the Parole Board for a decision.
(See Chapters 7, 8, 9 and 11 for details about Hearing Examiners, the Grid System and the 90% Policy.)
When the Pre-Parole Investigation is finished, a Hearing Examiner does the following things:
§ Makes sure all the information required by law has been gathered and put into the person’s parole file
§ Writes a short summary of the parole file contents for the Parole Board to use in its decision
v For people serving life sentences, the Hearing Examiner’s summary focuses on crime details, the circumstances of the crime, and the impact of the crime on the victim and community.
v For people not serving life sentences, the Hearing Examiner uses the Parole Decisions Guidelines Grid System (also called the Grid System) to find the Recommended Months to Serve (also called Grid Recommendation).
Parole Decisions Guidelines Grid System
The Parole Board is required by law to make parole decisions based on the risk a person might pose to public safety if he or she was granted parole.
§ To figure out that risk, the Parole Board made the Parole Decisions Guidelines Grid System (also called the Grid System).
§ The Grid System tells the Parole Board how likely a person is to succeed on parole, and how long he or she person should serve behind bars before getting parole.
§ The Grid System has three parts: the Parole Success Likelihood Score, the Crime Severity Level, and the Recommended Months to Serve (also called the Grid Recommendation).
What the Hearing Examiner does with the Grid System
1. The Hearing Examiner uses the information from the Pre-Parole Investigation to figure the Parole Success Likelihood Score.
§ The Parole Success Likelihood Score is shows how likely that person will be to succeed on parole.
§ The Parole Success Likelihood Score is based on what the person’s life was like at the time of the crime.
2. The Hearing Examiner finds the Crime Severity Level.
§ The Crime Severity Level is a number between I and VII to show how serious the crime is. (See Glossary of Important Terms for a list of crimes and their Crime Severity Level.)
3. The Parole Success Likelihood Score and the Crime Severity Level are used to find the Grid Recommendation.
§ The Grid Recommendation is the number of months the Guidelines say a person should serve behind bars before he or she would be safe to release on parole.
§ The Grid Recommendation is based on how likely a person is to succeed on parole (the Parole Success Likelihood Score) and how serious the crime is (Crime Severity Level.)
The 90% Policy and the Grid System
People serving for certain crimes are automatically given a Grid Recommendation of 90% of their sentence.
§ The Parole Board then votes on whether to use that number for the Grid Recommendation, or use a different one.
§ The Parole Board decided that some crimes are too serious, and had too much impact on the victim or community to use the Grid System as it was.
§ The Parole Board made the 90% Policy to show a “tough on crime” stand
STEP FOUR : The person’s parole file goes to the each member of the Parole Board, one at a time, for a vote.
(See Chapter 10 and all of Part Six for more information about how the Parole Board makes decisions.)
Each Parole Board member votes independently on whether or not to grant parole.
§ The Parole Board does not hold a hearing, or call any people in prison to appear and “plead” his or her case.
§ Generally, for most “non-violent” crimes, the Parole Decision is made within the first 8 months of the person’s arrival at the Diagnostic Facility.
When the parole file gets to the Parole Board, its contents include:
§ The Sentencing Packet from the Georgia Department of Corrections, which shows if and when a person is Parole Eligible.
§ The “Corrections Diagnostic Packet”, which is the record of tests and other information from when the person was in the Diagnostic Facility
§ The Personal History Statement
§ The Social Investigation Report, and the Legal Investigation Record from the Pre-Parole Investigation
§ The Parole Success Likelihood Score for people not serving life sentences
§ The Decision Guidelines Grid Recommendation for people not serving life sentences
§ The Hearing Examiner’s Summary of the Parole File
§ The Disciplinary Reports (DR) that the person has. These are added to a person’s file as soon as he or she is found guilty at the DR hearing
§ “Relevant” correspondence ( When asked for details about what “relevant” means, and for examples of relevant correspondence, the Parole Board said, “Relevant correspondence would be any correspondence that includes information the Board does not already possess and is helpful to the Board’s decision making process.”
STEP FIVE: The Parole Board makes a decision to a) Set a Tentative Parole Month b) Set a Reconsideration Date; or c) Refuse to grant parole and set no Reconsideration Date.
(See Chapter 10 and 11 for details about the Tentative Parole Month; Reconsideration Date; and denial of parole.)
The Parole Board’s decision can be:
§ To set a Tentative Parole Month
When the Parole Board believes it might possibly grant parole in the future, it gives the person a Tentative Parole Month. The Tentative Parole Month is not a guarantee of parole. New information from the free world, or the person’s behavior in prison might change the decision.
v Departing the Guideline Recommendation:
The Tentative Parole Month is usually based on the Recommended Months to Serve shown on the Grid Sheet. However, the Parole Board can set a different Tentative Parole Month than what is shown on the Grid Sheet. This is called Departing for the Guideline Recommendation.
§ To set a Reconsideration Date
§ For people not serving life sentences:
When the Parole Board believes it will not grant parole, it sets a Reconsideration Date when the person will be reviewed again. It is usually the Grid Recommendation plus 5 years, but it can be more than that or less than that.
§ For people serving life sentences
People serving life are considered for parole when they become parole eligible by law. The Guidelines are not used for them, but the way the Parole Board votes on those decisions is the same.
§ To set no Reconsideration Date
When the Parole Board has decided to deny parole—possibly for the rest of the person’s sentence—it does not set a Reconsideration Date. No Reconsideration Date means the Board will likely not review that person again sooner than eight years.
STEP SIX: The Parole Board sends a Notice of Tentative Action about it decision, which the person can ask the Parole Board to reconsider.
After the Parole Board has made its decision, it sends the person a Notice of Tentative Action, showing the Parole Board’s decision.
§ The Parole Board is not legally obligated to stick to what is on the Notice of Tentative Action, and can change its decision at any time.
The Parole Board is not legally obligated to grant parole at the Tentative Parole Month, or on the Reconsideration Date.
§ The Parole Decision on the Notice of Tentative Action is always subject to change.
About 70% of people in prison get their Notice within about 8 months of entering the state system.
§ These are usually for “non-violent” crimes.
The Notice of Tentative Action includes:
§ For people not serving life sentences:
v The Tentative Parole Month or Reconsideration Date (If no Reconsideration Date or Tentative Parole Month has been given, the Parole Board has decided not to grant early release at all.)
v Whether the Tentative Parole Month was Departing from the Grid Recommendation
v The Grid Sheet and Parole Success Likelihood Score Sheet
v A very short explanation of the parole decision
§ For people serving life sentences:
v Reconsideration Date (If no Reconsideration Date has been given, the Parole Board has decided not to grant early release at all. The person will automatically be reviewed at least within the next eight years.)
v A Very Brief explanation of the parole decision.
Request for a Reconsideration of the Parole Board’s decision
All people in prisons can request a Reconsideration of Parole Decision. (See Chapter 11 for details about requesting a reconsideration.)
1. People serving life sentences
People serving life sentences can request a Parole Decision Reconsideration to be granted parole when denied, or to get an earlier Reconsideration Date.
2. People not serving life sentences
People not serving life sentences can request a Reconsideration of Guidelines Decision unless the Parole Board “departed from the guidelines recommendation.”
A person can request a Reconsideration of Guidelines Decision if he or she finds a mistake in the way the Parole Success Likelihood Score was figured, or in his or her “time to serve.” The request will be ignored, however, if the person doesn’t see a mistake, but just disagrees with the decision.
STEP SEVEN: A Parole Review takes place near the time of the Tentative Parole Month or Reconsideration Date, to take into account the person’s behavior in prison, and to see if there is any new information in the person’s parole file.
(See Chapter 12 for details about the Parole Review and Parole Review Summary) The purpose of a Parole Review is to allow the Parole Board a chance to into account new information about a person, including his or her behavior in prison.
§ If the person has a Tentative Parole Month, the Parole Review is to see if there is new information that might change the Board’s tentative decision to grant parole.
§ As a result of the Parole Review, a person may be denied parole, event though he or she got a Tentative Parole Month.
The Georgia Department of Corrections sends a Parole Review Summary to the Parole Board.
§ The Parole Review Summary is about the person’s behavior and what he or she has done while behind bars.
Disciplinary Reports are summarized.
§ Disciplinary Reports (DR), are added to the parole file, right away, as soon as the person is found guilty of the DR charge.
The Hearing Examiner writes a summary of material that was added to the parole file since the person first came into the state system, or was last reviewed for parole. This
§ The Hearing Examiner’s summary also includes “relevant correspondence.” Not all the letters sent to the person’s parole file make it into the summary.
At the time of Parole Review, the judge and prosecutor are told that the person is being considered for parole, and are given a chance to give their opinion to the Parole Board.
§ Prosecutors and judges may or may not oppose parole for that person.
At the end of the Parole Review, the Parole Board can vote to do one of the following:
§ Release the person on parole at the Tentative Parole Month or Reconsideration Date
§ Set another Tentative Parole Month or , Reconsideration Date, and decide then whether to grant parole.
§ Deny parole and not set another Tentative Parole Month. If no date is set, the person will be reviewed at least within the next eight years.
In addition to the materials listed under STEP SIX, a person’s parole file at the Parole Review might also include:
§ The details of the crime
§ Statements by the judge, District attorney, witnesses and police officers or detectives, and victims
§ A Personal Statement form that a parole investigator at the Diagnostic Center filled out from an interview with the person in prison.
§ A report from a parole officer about the person in prison, and something about what his or her life was like before and at the time of the crime
§ The person’s conduct and behaviour
§ Results from medical and mental health tests and exams
§ How much the person seems to have changed for the better
§ The general nature of and improvements in the person’s behavior toward other people (e.g., How well he or she gets along with other people, how he or she responds to authority, whether the person is indifferent, menacing or helpful to his or her peers, etc.)
§ The person’s prison work record
§ How the person kept him or herself occupied in “free “ time
§ The kind of work the person might be most qualified and most likely to succeed in doing
§ The person’s education level, based on a standardized reading test
§ The educational programs in which a person has participated
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