The criminal justice system in many of the United States allows for the early release of a prisoner in most cases. Early release means there is an official order that allows the prison inmate release from the confines of prison, jail, or penitentiary before his or her court-mandated full sentence has been served.
The inmate release option is permissible only when a sentence is for a pre-determined period of time, such as for 15 to 20 years. Life sentences leave the inmate ineligible for parole or early release no matter how many years have been served. This type of never-ending incarceration, with no possibility of parole, is called an indeterminate life sentence, since the life span of the prisoner dictates the total number of years to be spent in confinement.
To take advantage of a correctional facility's inmate release program, the inmate must petition the court or parole board for early release from imprisonment. Each state has its own system of criminal justice so the procedure varies by state. Some states make the determination to deny or grant parole as an order of the court but others have a specially designated parole board for overseeing every aspect of the individual state's parole system.
When a prisoner petitions for inmate release through parole, he or she must present their case in as convincing a manner as possible and, in most cases, it takes more than good conduct during incarceration to get release on parole granted.
Some factors that will probably be considered when ruling upon inmate release through parole depend on the inmate's personal plans for life after incarceration. The prisoner must be able to demonstrate to the court or parole board that he or she has a permanent home to go to once released.
The ability to legally pay one's way is important to the inmate release decision, too. There needs to be a very good possibility of gainful employment beginning immediately upon release or the request for parole is at risk of being denied. When an inmate is old enough to collect Social Security benefits, this income can often be enough to satisfy parole requirements.
Once an inmate release petition for parole has been approved, the inmate must agree to live a law-abiding life after being released and that means regular contact with a parole officer. It also means no drugs and, in some cases, no alcohol consumption, too.
To obtain inmate release for the reason of parole, the inmate must exhibit no likelihood of absconding, which means living in hiding or "underground" and no leaving the jurisdiction specified in the order granting parole. There may be other limitations determined on a case-by-case basis, too, that may relate to the nature of the crime for which an inmate was convicted.
Early inmate release for the purpose of parole is available only in state prisons. Parole was abolished in 1984 for all federal crimes regardless of the nature or level of violence the crime involved.