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Virginia Department of Corrections — Public Safety First

Community Corrections - Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the difference between discretionary and mandatory parole?
Discretionary parole occurs when the Virginia Parole Board grants parole before the offender completes his or her sentence. Parole Board members grant discretionary parole when after carefully reviewing all available information, they determine that an offender is suitable to be paroled and that his or her release is in the best interest of the public.Mandatory parole, on the other hand, is the automatic release of an offender six months before completion of his or her sentence. Unlike discretionary parole decisions, the Parole Board does not vote on this type of parole , as it is established by law. All further parole references apply only to discretionary parole. Special conditions can be imposed upon mandatory release, if the Board deems that additional supervision is required for the release.

2. When does an offender become eligible for parole considerations?
The Department of Corrections determines the date when an offender is eligible to be considered for parole by using a formula that includes, but is not limited to, length of sentence, institutional adjustment, program involvement, and previous commitments to Virginia's Correctional system. Once the Department of Corrections notifies the Parole Board of an offender's eligibility date, the offender is interviewed by a Parole Examiner the quarter before his or her parole eligibility date. For scheduling purposes, a year is divided into four quarters: January through March; April through June; July through September; and October through December.

3. What factors are used to determine if an offender is suitable for parole?
In making parole decisions the Parole Board is guided by several factors including the offender's current offense, number of institutional infractions, previous criminal record, results of personal interviews, educational/vocational and behavioral development during imprisonment, release plans, and information received from family, friends, victims, and others.

4. How are parole decisions made?
The decision to grant or not to grant parole is determined by a majority of no less than three of the five members of the Parole Board. If the decision is made to grant parole, the offender is released on supervised parole on a date designated by the Department of Corrections. Therefore, questions about release dates should be addressed to the Department of Corrections. If the decision is not to grant parole, the offender is usually rescheduled for an interview during the same quarter of the following year and will continue to be interviewed annually until he or she is either granted discretionary parole or reaches his or her mandatory release date.

5. As a victim of crime, can I address the Parole Board as to the impact of the crime?
Yes. The Parole Board believes that victims of crime should be able to participate in the discretionary parole process if a person wishes. The Parole Board works closely with the Victim Services Unit and a victim may work through that office, may contact the Virginia Parole Board directly, or may contact the Board Appointment Secretary to arrange an appointment to address the Parole Board. Written correspondence may also be sent to the Parole Board.

6. Do offenders appear before Parole board members?
No. Offenders are interviewed by Parole Examiners. In accordance with the Parole Board policy, normally only the Parole Examiner, the offender, and his or her institutional counselor are present. Parole Examiners conduct interviews, rather than Parole Board members, to assist in expediting the decision-making process.

7. As a citizen, can I have a meeting with a representative of the Parole Board or provide information concerning an inmate's parole?
Yes. Individuals desiring an appointment with a representative of the Parole Board should contact the Parole Board's Appointment Secretary either by letter or by telephone. Appointments should be scheduled prior to the date an offender is scheduled to be interviewed. The main purpose of a Board appointment is to allow the public the opportunity to express their views and to provide input into the parole process. If you cannot personally attend a Board appointment and choose to write instead, letters must be received no later than five working days following an offender's interview in order to be considered in conjunction with the year's parole review.

Time is limited during the appointment so please be prepared to present information on the individual, his/her parole plan, family and community support, employment and the factors you believe the Board would consider important.

8. What is parole supervision?
When an offender is released on parole he or she agrees to obey a set of rules, which in some cases may include special conditions. In order to provide on-going contact, the parolee is placed under supervision of a Probation and Parole Officer. The officer's job is to ensure that a parolee follows all the rules in the parole release agreement, to work with the offender on identifying crucial needs, and generally to assist the parolee re-enter society.

9. Can a person be returned to prison while on parole?
Yes. If a parolee is convicted of a new offense or violates the parole agreement, the Parole Board can have his or her parole revoked and have the offender returned to prison.

10. When and how can a parolee successfully complete his or her sentence obligation?
If after a reasonable length of time, a parolee continues to show that he or she can obey all of the rules of parole, the person will be reviewed for discharged from parole supervision. At that time, he or she will receive a certificate stating that current sentence and parole obligations to the Commonwealth have been met.

11. Can a Board decision be appealed or reconsidered?
Yes. An offender has the option to appeal a Parole Board's decision when errors in fact, unknowingly considered during the review process, are afterwards identified. The Board reconsiders cases when significantly new information is presented that was unavailable to the Parole Board when the case was originally reviewed.

12. How do offenders apply for a pardon, clemency or the restoration of their civil rights?
These are handled through the Secretary of the Commonwealth who has established the processes and procedures. View Clemency information (on an external website) at the Secretary of the Commonwealth.