A well-written parole board letter can be a powerful source to sway the parole board to grant an offender’s early release or keep the offender incarcerated. Read on to learn more about what they are and whether you can write one.
What Is a Parole Board Letter?
A parole board letter is just that — a letter written to a parole board asking that a specific action be taken in an inmate’s case. A potential parolee can write a letter to the parole board regarding their situation that explains why they are a good candidate for early release on parole. Other people can write to the parole board to let their feelings about the offender (both good and bad) be made part of the record and taken into consideration when the individual comes up for parole.
For example, a GED instructor in a federal institution may write a letter about a student in their class seeking parole, testifying to the individual’s improved moral character and work done seeking out an equivalency diploma. Similarly, an assault victim may write a parole letter compelling the court to keep the perpetrator in their case locked up longer, due to the violent nature of the crime and fears they have should the offender be released.
Parole board letters are an integral part of the parole decision process for most parole boards around the country. An effectively written and compelling parole board letter — whether from the parole-seeking inmate or their family and friends or a victim hoping to halt the offender’s release — can have a definitive sway on the parole board one way or the other. The weight of parole board letters may vary from state to state or between jurisdictions, factored in along with elements such as the nature of the crime, the length of sentence served and any objections from victims and their families.
Who Can Write a Parole Board Letter?
Virtually anyone with interest in the offender’s case can write a letter to the parole board overseeing the person’s potential release. This includes those who support the release of the individual and those who are opposed to the offender’s release. Parole board letters may come from:
- The offender seeking parole. The offender themselves should in most cases write a heartfelt letter to the parole board in support of their own release. The offender’s thoughts arranged in letter format give the parole board a tangible glimpse of how the incarcerated individual sees their situation, whether they appear to have been rehabilitated and whether they feel remorse for their crime.
- Family and friends. Parole board letters from loved ones detailing how they believe the offender has changed and the importance that the offender plays in their lives are not uncommon.
- Prison staff. Staff that the inmate has had contact with during incarceration can weigh in on why they believe the offender is a good candidate for parole. This includes corrections officers and others who have dealt with the incarcerated individual frequently and observed their progression through the criminal justice system.
- The victim. Victims hold a lot of influence when it comes to parole boards and their decision to release an inmate or deny parole. This is particularly true with violent crimes and less so with purely financial ones. Victims can verbally share their victim impact statement at parole hearings or can mail or fax it to the appropriate board for consideration.
- Psychiatrists and medical doctors. These professionals sometimes write parole board letters when it is in their expert opinion that an inmate should be paroled or not paroled due to a mental or medical condition.
Writing a Parole Board Letter — Seeking Parole
If you are the potential parolee, you have a lot riding on an effective parole board letter. Begin your letter cordially, stating the purpose of the letter and your remorse for the crime. Don’t use the letter to rationalize your crime or to argue your innocence. The letter should indicate how prison has affected your life, any achievements or education obtained while incarcerated, and any milestones regarding substance abuse cessation. Your parole board letter should also lay out a distinct plan for your future, including details about where you will live, work or go to school upon release. Parole boards want to see that you have thought about any supportive services you may require as you make the transition from prison to civilian life, including housing, employment, emotional support and transportation, among others.
Writing a Parole Board Letter — Non-Inmates
The purpose of a parole board letter is to help the board see the offender outside the prison setting. Describe your relationship to the offender, the offender’s role in your life or the lives of your family, and your intention to help support the person’s ongoing rehabilitation. Remember, you’re not looking to convince the parole board of the person’s innocence; you’re hoping they’ll look at the inmate’s rehabilitation efforts. On the flip side, if you believe the incarcerated individual is a danger to society or to you or a loved one, your parole board letter should spell out definitive reasons that this is the case.