February 27th, 2017 by Attorney Dan Carman
Once hired, selected or appointed to a parole board, members have distinct responsibilities in order to fulfill their jobs of deciding which felons will be released from prison early on parole and which will not. If a felon is convicted on the federal level, no parole option. (Parole in some areas of the United States, including the District of Columbia, was discontinued in 1987 for those convicted of federal crimes. They must serve 85 percent of their sentence.) The Governor in each state appoints members to the parole boards. In many cases, such as the parole board in the state of Kentucky, members are required to have at least five years of experience in various professional fields, including law enforcement, corrections, education, medicine, social work or a combination of professional backgrounds.
The board’s autonomy begins at the state governor’s level. In some states, the board serves independently, while in others, it is part of the body of the prison system, or department of corrections. Other pardon and parole boards, such as in Alabama, Georgia, Nebraska, Nevada, Connecticut, Idaho, Minnesota, South Carolina and Utah have the power to pardon a felon for his crime, which means if a felon is pardoned of a crime for which he or she was convicted, that person will be released and not be required to serve parole and the crime is removed from the criminal record.
In many states, parole board members are required to hold four-year college degrees, while in others they are not. Each parole board member must decide whether to approve a felon prior to serving his/her full sentence. Parole board members want to hear from the public and the felon’s family and will also take a serious look at the felon’s conduct record while being incarcerated before they make a final decision to parole a felon back into society. Many times, members of parole boards are local judges, criminologists, or doctors who are qualified to decide whether a prisoner can be successful in society and whether if rehabilitation has been accomplished. A parole board member may have to prove to be of good moral character before being appointed or hired to serve on a state parole board.
The State Board of Pardons and Parole also hires parole officers to oversee a felon following release from prison. Candidates who want to serve as a parole officer or on the State Board of Pardons and Parole are generally required to be a United States citizen, be 21 years of age, hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university and have a valid driver’s license for the state in which they will serve. In addition, male applicants must show proof of having been registered with the Selective Service.