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A Guidebook to Parole in Alabama

About this Guidebook

This Guidebook is published by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a nonprofit organization based in Montgomery, Alabama. It was created by members of the team working on Braggs v. Dunn. Braggs v. Dunn is a lawsuit against the Alabama Department of Corrections over the inadequate quality of its mental health, medical, and dental care, as well as its failure to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

In talking with our clients in Alabama prisons, many of whom are preparing for parole hearings, we realized that the parole process can be confusing. The purpose of this Guidebook is to explain how parole works, and answer many of the most common questions that have come up in our talks with clients. This is not a complete guide to parole. This Guidebook is not a substitute for or intended to be legal advice. If you have questions about parole or want an attorney to represent you in your parole hearing, you should seek the advice of a lawyer.

The Bureau of Pardons and Paroles (which we will refer to simply as “the Parole Bureau” in this Guidebook) remains the highest authority on all questions related to parole. SPLC is not affiliated with the Parole Bureau or the Alabama Department of Corrections. Specific questions about parole should be directed to the Parole Bureau at the following address:

The Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles
PO Box 302405
Montgomery, AL 36130-2405

The Parole Bureau’s phone number is 334-353-7771. A family member or friend can reach the Parole Bureau by email at questions@paroles.alabama.gov. A full list of Parole Bureau contacts, as well as its rules, can be found at
https://paroles.alabama.gov.

This Guidebook was prepared after consultation with many advocacy organizations doing similar work across the country. We would like to thank everyone who contributed resources, knowledge, and edits to this document.

Most of all we want to thank our clients – both those who have gone through the parole process already and those who are preparing for their hearings – for sharing their perspectives, experiences, frustrations, and questions with us.

Send any questions about this Guidebook to the Southern Poverty Law Center. You can also reach out to us if you are in an Alabama prison and have something to report related to your medical, mental health, or dental care, or issues with ADA accommodations. You can call SPLC from any prison wall phone at 334-328-7918. The number is prepaid, so it won’t come off your books. It is also confidential, so it shouldn’t be recorded.

We sincerely hope that you find this Guidebook useful in navigating the parole process in Alabama.

In Solidarity,

The SPLC Alabama Prison Team

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signs HB 380 by Rep. Connie Rowe and Sen. Cam Ward on Thursday, June 6th, 2019 in the Old House Chamber. Photo by Governor's Office, Sydney A. Foster

A Note on the 2019 Parole Bill

In October 2018, Governor Kay Ivey issued an Executive Order making some changes to what was then called the Parole Board.1 District Attorneys and Victims’ Advocate groups had criticized the Parole Board for releasing an individual on parole who was later charged with a serious crime.2 Governor Ivey replaced the chairperson of the Parole Board and ordered the Parole Board to develop a Corrective Action Plan. The Parole Board has prepared two Corrective Action Plans in response to the Governor’s request.

In the spring of 2019, Alabama lawmakers passed a law making further changes to parole in Alabama. Known as HB 380 or Act No. 2019-393 (“2019 Parole Bill”), the law restructured the Parole Board and revised the process for early parole consideration, among other changes. It did not change the calculation of initial parole consideration dates.3 The Board of Pardons and Paroles was also formally renamed the Bureau of Pardons and Paroles. As a result, this Guidebook uses “Parole Bureau” to refer to the agency that was once called the Parole Board. You may still hear people refer to the agency as the “Parole Board,” or use "Parole Board" to refer specifically to the three-person board that makes parole decisions.

How did the 2019 Parole Bill change the structure of the Parole Bureau?

The 2019 law allows the Governor to appoint a “Director of Pardons and Paroles” to oversee the Parole Bureau. The law also requires that one of three members of the Parole Bureau must have significant experience in law enforcement. Specifically, the law states that one member of the Bureau must have at least ten years of experience working for a law enforcement agency that investigates violent crimes or supervises people who have committed violent crimes. Finally, the law made some changes to how new members of the Parole Board are chosen. Appointments are made by the Governor and approved by the Senate.4

How does the 2019 Parole Bill affect my initial parole consideration?

Initial parole consideration dates are calculated in the same way they were before the HB 380 passed. For more information on initial consideration dates, refer to Section II of this guide.

Did the 2019 Parole Bill do anything else to change the Parole Bureau?

In addition to these changes, the law also expanded some requirements for telling victims about upcoming parole dates. The changes are meant to ensure that people designated as victims, victims’ representatives, or other interested parties have advance notice of upcoming hearings.5

This section describes the major changes made by the 2019 Parole Bill. Other elements of the bill are reflected throughout the Guidebook. However, it does not describe every single provision of the bill. For full text of the bill, refer to your institution’s law library.

Section 1: Statement Regarding Legal Advice

The material provided here is for basic informational purposes only. It is not meant to be, nor should it be taken as, legal advice. You should not rely on this information instead of seeking the advice of an attorney. Legal issues can be complex, and a person’s rights may vary from case to case depending on small details. Only a lawyer who has taken the time to become fully aware of the facts in a given case can provide you with sound legal advice.    

If you feel your rights have been violated or would like advice related to parole, we recommend that you contact an attorney as soon as possible. The law generally requires people to file lawsuits within a certain amount of time after their rights were violated, so it is important to act quickly. At this time, the Southern Poverty Law Center does not represent individuals in parole proceedings.

The Alabama Criminal Justice Center in Montgomery, AL, houses the headquarters of the Alabama Department of Corrections and the Alabama Department of Public Safety. Photo by Rivers A. Langley/Wikimedia

Section II: Introduction to Parole

This section of the Guidebook provides basic background information on how parole works in Alabama and how the Parole Bureau is structured. It includes information on the history of parole in Alabama, the structure of the Parole Bureau, and the basic process for learning if and when you are eligible for parole. Like other sections of this Guidebook, it is organized to respond to the most common questions people may have about these topics. While parole exists in most prison systems, each state operates its parole system differently. This section addresses the way parole works in Alabama.

What is parole? What are parole decisions based on?

Parole is an opportunity offered to some people convicted of crimes to serve part of their sentence outside of prison while still under correctional supervision. Not all people convicted of crimes or serving time in prison are eligible for parole. Not all people eligible for parole will be granted parole. People who are released on parole can be sent back to prison if their parole is revoked.6 Most people on parole have to follow certain rules, like reporting to a parole officer or staying drug free. Failure to follow the rules of parole can result in someone being sent back to prison, even if that person didn’t commit a new crime.7

In Alabama, the Parole Bureau reviews each parole applicant’s case and decides whether to grant parole. The decision on who gets parole is made entirely by the Parole Bureau. If the Parole Bureau grants parole, the parole applicant will usually be released from the prison facility onto parole, while still being under the legal custody of the state.

Parole is not supposed to be granted simply for good conduct or behavior while in prison. An applicant must meet the guidelines that the Parole Bureau has set.8

The Parole Bureau must consider:

  • The applicant’s likeliness to re-offend, which should be based on a risk and needs assessment.
  • The applicant’s plans for reentry, and progress made towards completing that plan.
  • Input from the victim(s), the victim’s family, prosecutors, and law enforcement.
  • The seriousness of the applicant’s underlying offense and prior criminal history.

The Parole Bureau also considers an applicant’s conduct while in prison. This could include disciplinary history, jobs worked, programs completed, or other relevant factors from an applicant’s time incarcerated in ADOC.9

What is the difference between probation and parole?

Probation is similar to parole. People on probation are also under supervision of the state without being in prison. However, probation is usually ordered by a Court instead of prison time, whereas parole is granted by the Parole Bureau after people have served part of their time in prison. The Parole Bureau makes decisions about parole. Judges decide whether to place someone on probation.10

How many people are on parole in Alabama?

According to the United States Department of Justice, there were over 8,500 people estimated to be on parole in Alabama at the end of 2016, a slight increase from previous years. In that same year, over 2,500 people were estimated to have been newly placed on parole in Alabama.11

What is the Parole Bureau? Who sits on it?

In 1939, the Alabama legislature created a three-member Board of Pardons and Paroles with power over all matters of pardons, paroles, restoration of rights, forgiveness of fines and forfeitures. The authority of the Parole Bureau has been changed several times since then.12

The Parole Board is currently made up of three members. Their job is to assess the risks and needs of parole applicants being considered for parole. These members are appointed by the Governor from a list of candidates created by a committee of Alabama judges and legislators. The members are usually confirmed by the Senate. If the Senate is not in session when the Governor makes a nomination, the nomination is approved on an interim basis until the Senate can convene. If the Senate adjourns without voting on a nominee, that nominee is confirmed.13

At least one voting member of the Parole Board must have at least ten years of experience in a law enforcement agency that investigates violent crimes or supervises people convicted of violent crimes. Members of the Parole Board serve six-year terms.14 Current members of the Parole Board are listed on the Parole Bureau’s website.15

The Parole Bureau also has a Director of Pardons and Paroles who acts as chief executive. The Director oversees all operations and creates policies for the Parole Bureau. The Governor appoints the Director.16

Who works at the Parole Bureau other than the three Bureau members?

The Parole Bureau has a large staff, split into divisions based on the different tasks of the Parole Bureau. The staff is primarily divided into four programmatic sections split across the Parole Bureau’s central office in Montgomery and several field offices in counties across Alabama.17 For a full list of the Parole Bureau’s field offices, see Appendix E. The four program sections are:

Bureau Operations – This section includes units that do much of the work of the Parole Bureau, like deciding hearing dates and parole eligibility, telling relevant parties about upcoming hearings, interviewing applicants, and coordinating releases for people granted parole. Institutional Parole Officers are part of this section. This section is also responsible for taking calls from victims, parole applicants’ family members, members of law enforcement, and other stakeholders.18

Field Services – This is the section of the Parole Bureau responsible for supervising people on parole (and probation) once they are released into the community. Field Services operates over sixty field offices throughout the state, spread over 14 districts. Field Services also reviews the files of people on parole, reviews reported violations, and is responsible for drug testing and other tasks.19

Special Populations and Programs – This is the section of the Parole Bureau that oversees the LIFE Tech Transition Center, which is the agency’s only residential facility, as well as seven Day Reporting Centers and other special programs.20

Interstate Compact Unit– This section is in charge of overseeing the transfer of people on parole (and probation) to other states through the Interstate Compact, as well as supervising people on parole and probation in Alabama who have come from other states.21

Who is eligible for parole? Am I eligible for parole if I am serving a split sentence?

The Parole Bureau can grant paroles to all eligible persons in prison. If you are serving a split sentence, you must serve the mandatory time of the split sentence.22

For example, if your judge sentenced you to “20 years, split 5” you must serve the entire five years in prison. During those five years, you will not be eligible for parole. After five years, you will be released on probation for the remainder of your sentence. This also applies to consecutively applied split sentences. For example, if you have three charges and your judge sentences you to “15 years, split 3” for each of the sentences, served consecutively, you will have to serve three years for each conviction, or nine years total. During those nine years, you will not be eligible for parole.23

For other sentences, the Parole Bureau has established guidelines for deciding when an incarcerated person will be eligible for parole consideration. See the next question for more details.

When will I be eligible for parole? How many years of my sentence must I serve before I have a parole hearing scheduled?

If you have more than one sentence, not including split sentences, your parole will be determined by the longest running sentence. This is called your “controlling sentence.”

If you are receiving “good time” (also called correctional incentive time) on your controlling sentence, your eligibility for parole will be considered according to this chart.24

What if my controlling sentence is not eligible for good time?

If you are not receiving “good time” on your controlling sentence, then parole will be considered when you have served one third of your sentence or ten years, whichever is less, unless the Parole Bureau finds another time more appropriate.25

Are there certain crimes that are exceptions to the rules explained on the previous page?

Yes. If you were convicted of the following Class A felonies after March 21, 2001, you must serve 85 percent of your sentence, or 15 years, whichever is less:

  • Rape I
  • Kidnapping I
  • Murder
  • Attempted Murder
  • Sodomy I
  • Sexual Torture
  • Robbery I with serious physical injury
  • Burglary I with serious physical injury
  • Arson I with serious physical injury26

For example, if you are serving a life sentence with the possibility of parole for one of the above listed convictions, you will have to serve 15 years before you are eligible for parole consideration.

Can I be considered for parole earlier than the above schedule indicates?

The Parole Bureau does allow you to apply for early parole consideration. However, this process was severely limited by the 2019 Parole Bill. As a result, it is much harder to be granted early parole consideration. The process for applying for early parole is explained below.

What is the new process for applying for early parole?

After serving at least five years of your sentence, you can submit a request for earlier parole consideration. You can make such a request once per year.

Under the 2019 Parole Bill in order to apply for early consideration, parole applicants must show “by clear and convincing evidence” that they are more likely than not to be granted parole. Applicants must also show that they would have been given early consideration under previously existing policies.

The law further describes in general detail what it means to show “by clear and convincing evidence” that someone is more likely than not to be granted parole. This includes:

  • Showing that the parole applicant has been in prison for a certain amount of time. The Parole Bureau Rules specify that you must serve a minimum of five years before applying for early parole.
  • Showing that the parole applicant has completed certain programs while in ADOC custody. The law does not state which programs this means. The Parole Bureau Rules state that you must provide a certificate of program completion.
  • Providing a “statement of support” from an ADOC staff member.
  • Showing that the parole applicant has no violent disciplinaries in ADOC for a period of time prior to the application for early consideration. The Parole Bureau Rules specify that an applicant cannot have any disciplinaries within the prior three years and no violent disciplinaries during the applicant’s present incarceration.
  • A determination that the parole applicant’s risk of re-offense is medium or low. This determination must be made through a “validated risk and needs assessment conducted by a trained probation and parole officer.”27

Are there additional requirements for applying for early parole consideration NOT included in the 2019 Parole Bill?

While not included in the 2019 Parole Bill, the Parole Bureau Rules currently also specify certain requirements for early parole consideration requests, which must be made in writing. The Rules say that an applicant must include a letter of support from one or more of the following:

  • The office that prosecuted the applicant’s case,
  • The victim or victim’s representative,
  • The Attorney General’s Office,
  • The sentencing judge or the judge that replaced that judge, or
  • A law enforcement official from the county of conviction.

The Rules further state that requests for early parole consideration will be processed by a Review Committee of at least five members, appointed by the Director of the Parole Bureau. If at least three members of the committee decide to grant an early parole consideration, they can move an applicant’s parole consideration to an earlier date, but it cannot be moved up more than three years.28

So, if my early parole application is approved by the Review Committee, will I be granted an early parole consideration date?

Not necessarily. The 2019 Parole Bill also requires that before anyone is given early parole consideration, the Parole Bureau must submit notice to the Governor and the Attorney General within 30 days. The Governor and Attorney General then have 14 days to object to the decision. If the Parole Bureau grants somebody parole through an early parole consideration process without notifying the Governor and Attorney General, that decision can be reversed and parole can be revoked. Basically, the Governor and Attorney General must be given notice and have the chance to object to any early parole consideration.29

What is medical parole? Could I be granted parole based on my age or medical condition?

By law, medical parole can be granted by the Parole Bureau based on certain requirements listed below. Even if you meet the requirements for medical parole consideration, that does not guarantee that medical parole will be granted. Very few people, if any, have received medical parole in Alabama.

According to the Parole Bureau, at least every six months, geriatric, permanently incapacitated and terminally ill patients are put on the next available docket under medical parole if:

  • The person is eligible for parole;
  • The person has not been convicted of a capital offense or a sex offense; and
  • The Department of Corrections certifies that the person is geriatric, permanently incapacitated, or terminally ill. This certification can be based off of time spent in the infirmary, costliness and frequency of outside medical treatment, or severity of a terminal illness, among other considerations.

The Department of Corrections is responsible for giving a list of persons eligible for medical parole to the Parole Bureau. If you are referred to the Parole Bureau for medical parole, you will be entered into the parole hearing docket in the same way as everyone else. You will still have a parole hearing to determine your eligibility for release on parole.30

What is Mandatory Release? How do I know if I am eligible?

You may have heard of people receiving letters from the Parole Bureau saying they are being released on “Mandatory Supervision” or “Mandatory Release.” To the best of our knowledge, Mandatory Release applies to certain people who were sentenced AFTER January 31, 2016. People subject to this policy are released some period of time before their End Of Sentence (EOS) under intensive supervision by the Parole Bureau.

It is our understanding that Mandatory Release was created by a 2015 sentencing reform. Because the provision is relatively new, we don’t know exactly how it works or who is eligible. People subject to mandatory release do not have a parole hearing, but they do have to submit a home plan and they will be subject to intensive monitoring by the Parole Bureau during the period between their release and their EOS.

To the best of our knowledge, you cannot apply for Mandatory Release. People whose conviction includes any sex offense against a child (as defined in Section 15-20A-4 of the Alabama Code) will not be eligible for Mandatory Release. For more information on Mandatory Supervision, see Section 15-22-26.2 of the Alabama Code.

Do I have to apply for parole?

No, once you are eligible for parole, a hearing will be set for you by the Parole Bureau. You don’t have to do anything to start that process.31

When will my parole hearing date be set?

Your parole hearing date will typically be listed online as the first of a month for a particular year. For example, if you become eligible for parole in August of 2020, the “Parole Consideration Date” will be listed on ADOC’s website as 08/01/2020. This does not mean that your hearing will occur on August 1, or even that it will occur in August. As your parole hearing approaches the Parole Bureau will set an exact date. Because of the high volume of cases that the Parole Bureau hears, it may schedule your parole hearing several months after your parole consideration date. The Parole Bureau’s website generally lists the next two months of scheduled hearing dates.32

How will I find out about my parole hearing date?

You should be informed of your parole hearing date by mail several months before your hearing.

What else happens before my hearing?

Several weeks prior to your parole hearing, you should be visited by an institutional parole officer, or IPO. The IPO should conduct a detailed interview with you that may last up to an hour and a half. This interview will consist of questions about your underlying conviction, your disciplinary and institutional record while in ADOC, and other questions related to your behavior.

The IPO will also ask you about any plans that you have for after your release, including possible jobs and places to live. These are known as your home plan and job plan. For more information on home and job plans, see Section III of this Guidebook. If you have not already been informed of your parole hearing date, you can ask the IPO during this interview. You can also ask your institution’s classification officer in the weeks leading up to your parole eligibility date. You will not know the date of your interview with the IPO beforehand, so you should prepare for it several months in advance of your parole eligibility date.

One way to prepare for an IPO interview is to prepare a “parole packet” of relevant documents from your time in prison. Parole packets are not a requirement for making parole. However, some people choose to include documents such as:

  • Certificates from personal and professional development programs, such as Substance Abuse Programs or Job Training/Trade School certificates;
  • Letters of support from family, friends, supervisors, work release employers, chaplains, and/or members of the community (note that these people can also submit letters directly to the Parole Bureau);
  • Home plan or halfway house acceptance letters; and
  • Job plan acceptance letter or offers of employment.

You should make sure that you keep copies of any documents that you provide to the IPO during this meeting. You may consider sending a copy of your parole packet to any supporters or family members who intend to speak on your behalf at the parole hearing. Refer to Section III for more information about how to prepare for parole.

When and where does the Parole Board meet?

At the time this Guidebook is being published, the Parole Board meets at 301 South Ripley Street in Montgomery at 9:00 am, generally on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.33 However, the Parole Bureau recently announced that it will be moving its offices. The Parole Bureau plans to move from Ripley Street in downtown Montgomery to the Capitol Commerce Center in east Montgomery, just north of Interstate 85. It was reported that this move will be complete in April 2020.34

The Bureau continues to meet until all parole hearings scheduled for the day are complete. The Parole Bureau must hold meetings that are open to the public, and announce who will be considered for parole. This information is listed on the Bureau’s website at paroles.alabama.gov. There is often a line at the Parole Bureau the morning that hearings occur, so anyone attending on your behalf may want to arrive early. Parking around the current location of the Parole Bureau is metered, so your supporters may want to bring quarters.

Do I need a lawyer to go before the Parole Board on my behalf?

You can have a lawyer represent you in parole proceedings, but you are not required to have one, and the court will not appoint you one for free. SPLC’s attorney referral list (see Appendix B to this Guidebook for information on how to request the list) includes some lawyers who handle parole cases. At this time, SPLC does not handle parole cases.

Photo credit iStockphoto

Section III: Preparing for Parole Hearing

Once you become eligible for parole, you will be scheduled for a parole hearing as described in Section II. However, there are things that you can do to start preparing for your hearing before it is scheduled. In fact, you can start preparing for parole from the time you are first incarcerated. Every aspect of your time in prison will be considered by the Parole Bureau. This section addresses questions that you may have in preparing for your parole hearing, including things you may want to do to prepare, information on home plans and halfway houses, and a description of the parole hearing itself.

What can I do while in prison to increase my chance of getting parole?

The Parole Bureau will want to see that you have learned from the situation that led to you being in prison. They will also want to see that you have made the most of your time in prison. Taking classes, staying out of trouble, and developing positive relationships are some of the most common ways to show such progress.35

Programming

You can take advantage of any job, education, and personal growth programming offered in prison. This includes substance abuse treatment (including “crime bill” and SAP classes), emotion management therapy, mental health groups, and GED, trade school, or college courses. If you can, you should develop job skills through technical programs and get any work certifications that are available. This may also help you find job opportunities after you are released from prison. Keep any documents, certificates, or awards so that you can present them to the Parole Bureau and show how you have made the most of the opportunities available to you.

Stay Out of Trouble

Do your best to avoid fights, citations, and disciplinaries. If you disagree with a disciplinary or feel that you need to provide further information or context about the incident, you can document this by writing a letter to classification and/or the Warden and asking that a copy of your letter be placed in your institutional file (or “jacket”) so you will later be able to explain the situation to the Parole Bureau. It is your decision whether to try to explain or address specific events that led to disciplinaries – we cannot predict whether it will help or hurt your case with the Parole Bureau.

Develop Relationships

If it is possible, find a staff member – like a chaplain, teacher, work supervisor, or even correctional officer – to develop a positive relationship with. It will be helpful to have people who know you well and may even advocate on your behalf when the Parole Bureau is deciding whether to grant your parole. Advocates can write a letter on your behalf or even appear in person at your hearing. If you want to apply for early parole consideration, you will need a letter of support from an ADOC staff member. For more information on applying for early parole, see Section II.

What are home plans and job plans?

One of the most important things that the Parole Bureau will consider in your application is whether you have a plan for what will happen once you are released on parole. They want to know that you will have a place to live so that they can supervise you in the appropriate field office. This is known as your “home plan.” Your home plan could be a residence that you own, the home of a friend or family member who is willing to host you, or a halfway house. Your home plan must be investigated and approved by the Parole Bureau before you are released from prison.

The Parole Bureau will also want to know whether you have a job lined up for when you are released or plans to find one. This is known as your “job plan.” Showing that you have a plan for what you will be doing upon release will show the Parole Bureau that you are serious about reentering society and staying out of prison. However, you do not need to have a job to be granted parole, especially if you are unable to work due to age or disability.

How do I make a job plan?

For your job plan, you may want to think about connections you have to potential employers on the outside. These could be family members, friends, or past employers. If possible, contact the potential employer (or have a family member or friend contact the employer on your behalf) and try to confirm that there will be a position for you once you get out.

It may be helpful to write a cover letter and résumé to potential employers during this stage. See Appendix C for examples of résumés and information about cover letters. If you are having trouble thinking about what jobs to look for, it may help to brainstorm all the skills you have and the previous jobs you’ve held (both before and during your incarceration). It is generally helpful to provide the Parole Bureau with the names of people who have agreed to hire you, or past employers who can vouch for your work skills.

At least a month before your parole date, make sure you have contacted your potential employer and confirmed that they are prepared to hire you.

How do I make a home plan?

For your home plan, think about where you will live after you are released. Do you have family members or friends in Alabama who you can stay with? Keep in mind that whoever you live with may be required to drive you to court-ordered appointments. If you do not have a place to stay with family or friends, another option is to go to a halfway house upon release from prison.

Halfway houses are transitional homes that help people find jobs and gain financial independence. Many offer drug and alcohol treatment services, and some provide medical and mental health support as well. We included a partial list of halfway houses at the end of this Guidebook, in Appendix D. If you will require medical or mental health attention when you are released, plan for this as well.

While it is possible to arrange a home plan in a state other than Alabama, this might slow down your parole approval process. For more information about arranging a home plan outside of Alabama, see the section below describing the Interstate Compact Unit.

You will need to provide the Parole Bureau with the address of the residence you are proposing as your home plan, as well as the names and contact information for the people who live in that residence. You should provide this information during your interview with an Institutional Parole Officer. If you don’t have a home plan at the time of your meeting with an IPO, you can send it afterwards through a letter to the Parole Bureau, or by talking to your IPO again. It is important that the information that you provide to the Parole Bureau is accurate and up to date.

At least a month before your parole date, make sure you have contacted the family members, friends, or the halfway house you plan to live with and have confirmed that they are ready to take you in. The Parole Bureau’s Field Services Division will be checking in with the people you list as living at the place you list in your home plan, so it is important that they are aware of the plan and are ready to take you in.

How will my home plan be investigated? What could cause my home plan to fail?

The Parole Bureau will investigate to make sure your home plan can adequately support a person leaving prison. Some things that may lead to a denial of your home plan can include:

  • If the person at the address you listed is not ready to accept or support you. You should make sure that whoever is listed in your home plan understands and is fully prepared for you to live with them. Home plans can fail when the person at the listed address did not know or agree to be listed, or changes their mind about having the person on parole live with them.
  • If there are guns in the residence you listed as your home plan.
  • Depending on your conviction, you may not be able to list public housing (e.g. Section 8) as your home plan.
  • People on parole are not generally allowed to live with anyone who has a felony conviction.
  • People who have sex offense convictions may face additional restrictions. They should take care to review the conditions of their parole carefully to ensure that their home plan follows any residency conditions they may have as a result of their conviction.
  • If you are hoping to live with someone in an apartment building, the building may have restrictions on who can live there without being on a lease. You should check the lease requirements for any apartment building you intend to list as a home plan.

If I want to list a friend or family member’s residence as my home plan, what information do I need from them?

You will need to know the address of the place where you plan to stay, the name of who you will be living with, and a phone number where that person may be reached. You may also need to know the names and ages of anyone else who lives in the household. If they live in an apartment building, you may need to confirm that their lease allows you to stay there.

How can my friends or family who I am hoping to live with prepare for the investigation?

The Parole Bureau frequently asks friends and family who are listed as the home plan if they will be willing and able to help their friend or loved one check in with their parole officer and with attendance at any required programs. People on parole are not always able to legally drive a car, and the Parole Bureau may also ask if the friends and family will be able to provide transportation for the person on parole. It is important that friends and family are honest about what they can provide to the person on parole.

You said that my home plan could be a halfway house. What is a halfway house?

Halfway houses are programs to help people transition from prison to life in the free world. People live together in halfway houses after they have been released from prison. Halfway houses often involve addiction treatment programs. They are often privately run by churches and faith organizations, but not always. Different halfway houses have different rules and services. Some ways they are different from each other include:

  • How many people live in the halfway house
  • Restrictions on property and freedom of movement; other rules specific to the halfway house
  • Whether classes, job preparation, or faith programs are provided
  • Whether meals and transportation are provided
  • Whether people with physical disabilities or mental health needs can live there
  • What kinds of medications residents are allowed to take (many halfway houses do not allow people who take opiate pain medication or certain mental health drugs)

Some halfway houses have a formal application process. Others are more informal, and only ask for a short phone conversation ahead of time. See Appendix D, which lists some halfway houses in Alabama, for more information.

If the halfway house you are interested in is full, you may ask to be placed on a waiting list. To maximize your chances of being accepted to a halfway house, contact them well ahead of your scheduled parole consideration date. Your classification or Institutional Parole Officer should also be able to help you identify and contact halfway houses, including those not listed in the appendix.

How do I figure out the best halfway house to apply to? Are they really all that different?

Some halfway houses cost money. Others are free. If you are considering a halfway house, please see Appendix D to help you decide on the correct place for you, or contact your IPO or classification officer.

The following are some of the most important things to keep in mind in selecting a halfway house:

  • Do I want to go somewhere specific in Alabama, or can I go anywhere in the state?
  • Do I need a halfway house that can accommodate and support my physical or mental health needs? Some halfway houses do not accept people taking certain medications.
  • Will I be able to work while I’m on parole? Some halfway houses have a work requirement, and will not accept people who are elderly or have certain disabilities.
  • Am I okay going to a halfway house with a specific faith denomination? Will I be comfortable going to a halfway house that requires me to go to Bible study every day?
  • Am I okay going to a halfway house with many rules and restrictions? For example, will I be okay if I am not allowed to have my own car or phone?
  • Do I need to go to a halfway house that has a substance abuse program?

Somebody gave me the name of a halfway house that I want to go to, but it’s not listed in the appendix – will I still be able to go?

The appendix is not a complete list of halfway houses in Alabama. It is a list of halfway houses that we have been able to confirm are in operation, and which should already be approved by the Parole Bureau. There are other halfway houses in the state that you may be able to go to. If the halfway house is brand new, the Parole Bureau may send someone to investigate the halfway house and make sure that it meets their requirements.

Can I list a home plan that is not in Alabama? How does that work?

The Interstate Compact Office provides an option for people looking to serve their parole outside of Alabama. The Interstate Compact for Adult Offender Supervision is a legal agreement between the fifty states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.36

The Interstate Compact allows states to supervise people on parole from other states that are part of the compact, if that person is approved for an out-of-state home plan. If you serve your parole outside of Alabama and violate the conditions of parole, the Compact also provides for your return to court or prison in Alabama.37

How do I apply for an out-of-state home plan?

You can start an Interstate Compact application by informing your Institutional Parole Officer that you intend to move out of state if granted parole. If you make this decision after your first meeting with the IPO, you can send a letter to the Parole Bureau saying that you now want an out-of-state home plan. You should not leave the state until it has been approved.

An out-of-state home plan is slightly different from an in-state plan. You or your family will need to pay $75 to the Interstate Compact Division to initiate the out-of-state investigation. Their address is listed below. You will also need to agree to the terms of parole in the state where you intend to go, in addition to Alabama’s conditions of parole.

If you are granted parole, an investigation of your out-of-state home plan will occur, similar to in-state plans. However, since the Parole Bureau in Alabama needs to coordinate with the parole office in another state, this process can take much longer than the in-state process. If the investigation into your out-of-state home plan fails and you wish to try another out-of-state home plan, you will likely have to pay the fee again.

If you have any questions about the out-of-state compact process, you can contact the division at the following address:

Interstate Compact Division
State Criminal Justice Center
PO Box 302405
Montgomery, AL 36130-2405
interstate.compact@paroles.alabama.gov
334-353-7443

What about out-of-state halfway houses? Can I list a halfway house in a different state?

It is possible to go to a halfway house in another state. However, if you wish to apply to a halfway house outside of Alabama, you must have a family member living in the same city as the out-of-state halfway house.

Can I be granted parole without a home plan?

An applicant can be granted parole without a home plan, but the Parole Bureau often reviews the home plan carefully to aid its decision-making process. It is likely that the absence of a home plan will be held against you. If you make parole without having a home plan on record, you will likely be visited by an IPO to create a home plan. You will not be released from prison until the Parole Bureau has investigated and approved of a home plan.

PREPARING FOR YOUR PAROLE HEARING

My classification and/or Institutional Parole Officer (IPO) didn’t tell me my hearing date. How do I find out when my parole hearing is scheduled?

Ask a free world friend or family member to check the Parole Bureau website, which has a tab listing hearing dates, or to call the Parole Bureau at (334)-353-7771 and ask for your scheduled hearing date. If your friend or family member calls the Parole Bureau, they will need to know your AIS number to find your hearing date.

What should I expect before my parole hearing?

A few weeks before your parole hearing, an Institutional Parole Officer (IPO) should interview you and conduct a risk and needs assessment. The IPO may ask you about: your criminal case, your disciplinary history in prison, the neighborhood where you’ll be living after release, substance abuse, how you respond to things you can’t control and people who upset you, your education and employment history, and your family support.

You should think through your home and job plan before this interview and be prepared to discuss it with the IPO. This is a good opportunity to ask any questions you have about your parole case, as the IPO works for the Parole Bureau, whereas your classification officer works for the Department of Corrections.

What materials can I send to the Parole Bureau before my hearing?

You are not required to send anything to the Parole Bureau prior to your hearing. However, it is a good idea to send materials, letters, or information to the Parole Bureau. The most common materials people have sent to the Parole Bureau are letters of support from family, friends, and others in the community who support your parole. These could include officers and prison staff with whom you have a good relationship, job supervisors, faith leaders, your lawyer, or an employer who plans to hire you. You should only ask for letters from people you know well, and who you know will speak positively about you. The letters often include the following elements:

  • How the person writing the letter knows you or is related to you and how long that person has known you;
  • Your good qualities and good character, including stories and evidence of this;
  • Familiarity with the positive things you have done in prison and how you have grown, including programs, achievements, and hobbies;
  • Expressions of confidence that you will be able to successfully reenter society, including describing the support that you have in the community.

Can I write a letter to the Parole Bureau? What should it include?

You are not required to send a letter to the Parole Bureau on your own behalf. Whether or not to write to the Parole Bureau is a very personal decision, and ultimately up to you. If you choose to write a letter to the Parole Bureau, some helpful points to discuss are:

  • The progress you have made during your incarceration. You may want to emphasize the programming and certifications you have completed.
  • Your disciplinary record. If you have not received many disciplinaries or your disciplinary record has improved in the last few years or since your last parole hearing, point that out to the Parole Bureau. As noted above, you may choose to provide additional information about disciplinaries that you have received, if you feel it is important to do so.
  • The strength of your job and home plan. Explain how you intend to give back to the community and why you are excited to do so.

Can I get a parole attorney to speak on my behalf? How do I find one? What if I don’t have money to hire one?

You are allowed to be represented by an attorney at your parole hearing, but you are not required to have one. It is your decision whether or not to have an attorney represent you. Attorneys are trained to present arguments effectively, so a good, experienced parole attorney will gather all the facts about your situation and persuasively argue the case to grant parole during your Parole Bureau hearing. While most parole attorneys charge clients for their services, some will represent low-income clients for free (this is called pro bono, which means “for the public good”). See Appendix B for information on how to request a list of some parole attorneys who represent clients in Alabama, some of them on a pro bono basis. SPLC does not represent individuals at parole hearings.

If you are considering hiring a lawyer for your parole case, you or your family may want to ask the lawyer the following questions: (1) How much will they charge? Will it be a flat rate or will you be billed for the attorney’s time? (2) Has the attorney handled parole cases before? (3) What will the attorney do to prepare for your case? (4) Will the attorney visit you in prison prior to your parole hearing date?

If you or your family cannot afford an attorney, there are other ways to have support at the parole hearing. See Section VI of this Guidebook for information on how family members can advocate for their loved ones at parole hearings. Please note that many people make parole without having a lawyer help them.

Who can I ask to attend my parole hearing? How many people?

You do not have to have anyone present at your hearing in order to be granted parole. However, it is helpful to ask friends, family, or other loved ones to attend the hearing. In our experience, having one to three supporters speak on your behalf is common. According to the Parole Bureau, no more than three supporters may speak on your behalf. However, additional supporters can come to sit and watch.

Your supporters, especially those speaking before the Parole Bureau, should be people who know you well and who can advocate for you and explain why you should be granted parole. You may want the people named in your home plan (who you will be staying with when you are released) to be present since the Parole Bureau may want to ask them questions. If you have a parole attorney, the attorney will be present as well. Anyone who speaks on your behalf should be ready to answer questions from the Parole Bureau members.

How can my supporters prepare?

The Parole Bureau will often begin the hearing by asking “Tell us about [Your Name]. Why should we grant them parole?” Your supporters need to be prepared with an answer to this question. Supporters frequently discuss their loved one’s good character, growth and progress while in prison, and home and job plan. The Parole Bureau may also ask the people speaking on your behalf about their history with you, how they got to know you, and about themselves (where they work, for example). The Parole Bureau may also ask your supporters questions about your disciplinary record. Of course, all of this can vary by parole hearing. Most likely, your supporters will only be able to speak for a few minutes. For more information on how family members and supporters can support a parole application, see Section VI of this Guidebook.


Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles at 301 Ripley Street in Montgomery, AL. (Photo from Twitter/@ALBPP)

THE PAROLE HEARING

Where are parole hearings held?

Parole hearings are held at the Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles office, which is currently located at 301 South Ripley Street in Montgomery, Alabama. As noted earlier in this Guidebook, the Parole Bureau will soon move locations in Montgomery.

Who will be there?

The three members of the Parole Board will preside over the hearing. It is possible that there will only be two members present. A secretary (taking notes) and bailiff (escorting the supporters and attorneys in and out of the room) will also be present.

It is also possible that victims and their families, victims’ rights groups, or prosecutors from the office which prosecuted your criminal case will be at the hearing. The presence of these groups (which are called “protesting parties” or “protesters” because they are protesting your parole application) can influence the decision of the Parole Board. Their testimony can reflect a lot of anger towards you, and they may speak very badly of your character. You and your supporters should be prepared for this possibility. The Parole Bureau’s Rules specifically mention “significant community opposition” as a factor that can make it unlikely for an applicant to be granted parole.

The hearing is open to the public as well, though generally only supporters and protesters are present. Supporters and protesters wait in different rooms.

Can I attend my parole hearing?

In Alabama, you are not allowed to attend your own parole hearing. However, friends and family speaking on your behalf may attend the hearing, and they can tell you what happened.

What will the members of the Parole Board review in preparation for my parole hearing?

Before a parole hearing, the Docket Unit of the Parole Bureau prepares a parole file for the Board’s review. Your parole file will include:

  • An investigative report with details of your criminal offense;
  • Your corrections time sheet and any institutional reports;
  • Letters in protest or support of your parole being granted;
  • Your IPO’s report, which will include information about any programs you’ve taken;
  • Your Risk Assessment Score, which is determined by your IPO during your interview;
  • Your IPO’s comments and recommendations regarding suitability for parole.38

What will happen at my parole hearing?

Before the hearing, the supporters and protesters (if there are any) will wait in separate waiting rooms. When it is time for the hearing, everyone present for your hearing will be brought into the hearing room.

To begin the hearing, the bailiff will swear in the supporters who will be speaking (and the protesters, if there are any), having them pledge that they will tell the truth. Then, the Parole Board members will begin to question the speakers, first the supporters and then the protesters. Each speaker will be questioned individually. Most questions will deal with the speaker’s relationship to you and why they think you should be granted parole.

The protestors will be asked why they oppose your parole. It is important to know that your supporters will not have a chance to respond to things that are said about you by any protestors that are present. When the questioning is over, the Parole Bureau members may talk in private and then announce its decision to the audience in the hearing room. At this point, the hearing has ended and the supporters and protesters will be escorted out of the hearing room.

Once the Parole Board has completed the hearings that have supporters or protestors, its proceedings are closed to the public. For parole hearings where there are no supporters or protestors, results will be posted on the Parole Bureau’s website and can be found out the same afternoon by calling the Parole Bureau.

How long will my parole hearing last?

Parole hearings generally last from three to five minutes, depending on how many supporters are speaking on your behalf and whether there are protesters in attendance. In our experience, hearings do not last longer than ten minutes.

How many votes do I need in order to get parole?

Most parole applications can be granted if two of the three Board members vote in support of parole. The exception to this is cases involving a victim, which require the decision to be unanimous until the applicant has served one third of his or her sentence or ten years, whichever is less.39 That is to say, if your criminal case involved a victim and your parole hearing happens before you’ve served ten years or one-third of your sentence, all three members of the Bureau will have to vote in favor of granting parole for you to be released.

If there are only two members of the Parole Board present for a case not requiring a unanimous vote, and the two members are divided on whether to grant parole, the parole hearing may be continued at a later date.40

How can I find out the result of my parole hearing?

The Parole Bureau will mail you a letter explaining the outcome of your hearing. However, you will likely be eager to learn your results sooner. To do so, you can ask someone on the outside to call the Parole Bureau at
(334) 353-7771 after 3 p.m. on the day of your hearing and ask about the result. Otherwise, hearing results are generally available the next day on the Parole Bureau’s website, under the "Hearings" tab. You can ask a friend to check the website for you.

Section IV: After the Hearing

Whether or not you make parole, the days and weeks after your hearing may be very emotional and overwhelming. If your parole application was denied, you may feel confused and upset. If your application was granted, you may feel very happy at first and then frustrated that you have to spend more time in prison, and sad about leaving prison while people you care about have to stay. People may be surprised to learn that they may have to stay in prison for several weeks after making parole, and that the parole can be revoked after it is granted. Whether or not you made parole, there are some things you might want to think about in the days after your hearing. Below, we have tried to answer the most common questions in this period.

Is it possible to appeal a decision made by the Parole Bureau?

There is no possibility for appeal. A denial from the Parole Bureau is final.

When will I be considered for parole again if I am denied?

If the Parole Bureau denies a parole application, it must determine when the case will next be considered. According to the Parole Bureau’s rules, reconsideration (or, your “set off date”) should be at most two years for people with sentences 20 years or less, and at most five years for other cases.41

How do I find out why my parole was denied?

The Parole Bureau does not always provide a reason for denying parole at the parole hearing, though it will sometimes offer a brief explanation to anyone who is present. However, the Parole Bureau does send a brief letter to the person seeking parole after the hearing.

According to its Rules, the Parole Bureau will provide the parole applicant with a “communication packet” including reasons given for denial.42 This often involves a letter with a list of possible reasons, with some reasons checked off. If you do not receive this information from the Parole Bureau within a few weeks of your parole hearing date, you can write to the Parole Bureau requesting information on why your parole was denied.

Ultimately, all parole decisions are in the hands of the Parole Bureau. It is very hard to deal with having your parole application denied. It may happen even if you did everything you could to stay out of trouble and participate in programming.

If I was denied parole, can I request an earlier parole reconsideration date?

If you feel that you have been “set off” for too long and would like to request earlier parole reconsideration, you can make a request for an earlier consideration date. However, you cannot make this request until 18 months after you were denied parole, and you cannot make a request more than once in a year.43 Refer to Section II for the guidelines for making a request for an earlier consideration date.

Note that this process does not apply to geriatric, permanently incapacitated, and terminally ill applicants. For information on medical parole, see Section II of this Guidebook.

How do I prepare for my next hearing if my parole was denied?

While it can be very difficult to hear that parole has been denied, most of the time there will be another chance for parole. You can prepare for your next parole hearing by trying your best to keep a clean disciplinary record, keeping your home plan and job plan up-to-date, and participating in classes, programming, and jobs at your facility, where possible.

Many people fail to get parole at their first hearing, or even first couple of hearings. This is particularly true if someone has been convicted of a crime that carries a long sentence or involved violence, or if there is a lot of opposition from victims or community members.

Many people have been granted parole after a previous denial. If you are feeling depressed as a result of not making parole, it may help to talk to someone about how you are feeling. You may wish to talk to family or friends, or ask to speak with someone from mental health at your institution.

I made parole! How long should I expect to stay in prison before I am released?

Many people are surprised to find out that they are not released immediately after they make parole. On average, people who have been granted parole three to six weeks before they are released.However, you may remain in prison longer.

After you make parole, the Parole Bureau must contact the field office for the county where you listed a home plan. That field office may take about two weeks to investigate your home plan. The field office may deny a home plan if the investigation reveals anything that may result in a violation of the law or your conditions of parole, such as the presence of weapons or if someone with a felony conviction lives in the home. These requirements can vary depending on your underlying conviction. For example, people with certain drug offenses cannot live in public or publicly-subsidized housing.

If your home plan is denied, you will have the opportunity to prepare another home plan, but the process of reviewing the home plan starts over. This can delay release.

Once your home plan is approved, you will be scheduled for release. Releases often occur on Mondays (or the Tuesday after a Monday holiday). In order to find out the exact day of your release, you can have someone contact the Parole Bureau. According to the Parole Bureau’s website: “We cannot give an exact date but you may call 1-334-357-7771 on Wednesday afternoon for the releases scheduled for the following Monday.”44

What could slow down my release?

Several factors could slow down your release, according to the Parole Bureau:

  • an unsatisfactory home and/or job plan;
  • an out-of-state home/job plan;
  • needing to submit aftercare plan and/or mental health program;
  • a requirement to attend substance abuse program before release;
  • sex offenders require 30-day notification period; and/or
  • a requirement to attend a halfway house (if you do not already have a spot reserved for you).45

Could there be special conditions of my release? What are they?

If you are granted parole, the Parole Bureau may place one or more conditions on your release. These can include mental health treatment, regular drug testing or attending Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meetings, staying alcohol-free, daily check-ins with a day reporting center, community center, or other requirements. These conditions are often communicated to you at the time you are informed that you made parole.

If you are enrolled in a program when you are granted parole, such as the Substance Abuse Program (SAP), Crime Bill Program, or Alabama Therapeutic Education Facility (ATEF), you may have to complete the program before you can be released on parole. The Parole Bureau may require you to attend LIFE Tech. See below for more information on LIFE Tech.46

I was granted parole but told that I have to go to LIFE Tech. What is LIFE Tech?

The Parole Bureau may require that a person go to LIFE Tech as a parole condition. LIFE Tech is a parole transition center located in Thomasville, AL that offers substance abuse treatment, conducts a jobs and training program, and teaches life skills designed to help people on parole have a successful reentry experience. People on parole may participate in the jobs and training program to learn skills, such as welding, or to work towards a GED.

LIFE Tech classes typically run every six weeks. There is limited space in each class, so sometimes there is a waiting list or backlog of people who need to attend LIFE Tech. Unfortunately, this may delay your release. If LIFE Tech is imposed as a condition of parole, you will have to wait for a spot to open up. Attendance at LIFE Tech can also be ordered as a sanction for violating a condition of parole. 47

Can I lose my parole if something happens in prison before I leave?

The Parole Bureau can revoke parole after it has been granted. For that reason, it is important to avoid any disciplinaries to the extent possible.48

I made parole weeks ago, and still haven’t gotten out. What’s going on!?

It can take several weeks between the decision to grant parole and actual release, and your release can be delayed by a late submission of a home plan or having to submit a second home plan after the first home plan fails. The Parole Bureau can revoke parole after they have granted it, though you should be notified if this happens. If you are not able to identify a successful home plan or halfway house over a period of many months, you may be reentered into the parole docket for another hearing. You are not guaranteed to make parole at the next hearing, even if you already made parole.

Are there things I can be doing after I made parole to prepare for the transition to life in the free world?

A frequent condition of parole is that you have a job or are actively looking for one. A résumé is often needed for employment. Please see Appendix C for example résumés to help you create your own, as well as information about cover letters.

Alabama’s State Capital building in Montgomery, AL. Photo credit iStockphoto

Section V: Getting Out and Staying Out

It is important to understand that being released from prison on parole is not the same as being released at the end of your sentence. You will still be under correctional supervision, and if you violate the conditions of your parole you can be sent back to prison to finish serving your sentence there. It is important that you understand the conditions of your parole to avoid this happening.

How soon do I need to report to my parole office? How do I know where it is?

The Parole Bureau has field offices in many, though not all, Alabama counties. You should be informed of the office to report to in the letter you receive from the Parole Bureau informing you that you made parole. However, you can also ask a family member to look up the relevant field office on the website for the Parole Bureau at https://paroles.alabama.gov/about-us/locations/locations-by-county. We have also listed the Parole Bureau’s field offices in Appendix E of this Guidebook. You should be informed before or at the time of your release of when you need to report to your field office.49

What can I bring with me and who should accompany me to the field office?

It can be helpful to report to your local parole office with someone else like a friend or family member. This way you will be less likely to miss any key information you are given about your conditions of parole and how and when to report to your parole officer. You may want to bring a pen and paper so that you can write down what you are told, and even a personal calendar to keep track of any dates you are told about.

What information should I make sure to get at my first visit to the field office?

Before you leave your first meeting, make sure you have written down:

  • Your Parole Officer’s (PO) name and contact information;
  • How often you will need to check in with your PO and when your next meeting is;
  • What to do if you miss or are late for a check-in.

What will my relationship with my parole officer be like?

Keeping an honest and respectful relationship with your parole officer can make parole easier and help you avoid parole violations. You should ask your parole officer any questions you have about the conditions of your parole.

AVOIDING PAROLE VIOLATIONS

What is a parole violation?

A parole violation is when you break a condition of your parole. Examples are missing a meeting with your PO, failing to inform your PO of changes to your residence and travel, or testing positive for drug use. A parole violation is not the same as a new criminal conviction.

What will happen to me if I have a parole violation?

Depending on how serious your PO determines the violation is, you may face non-confinement-based or confinement-based punishments. These can include two to three day periods of incarceration (“dips”) or longer, 45-day periods of incarceration (“dunks”). If the violation is very serious or if you have already served several dips or dunks, your parole may be revoked.50

What is absconding?

Absconding is a term used to refer to someone who is under supervision of some kind and has stopped reporting as required. You can be labeled an absconder for leaving the area where you are being supervised without permission or failing to report as required.

An absconder warrant is an arrest warrant issued by a local government in the event someone on parole absconds, or fails to report, to their assigned probation or parole office as required. Absconding is a very serious charge. If you are found to be absconding from parole, you can have your parole revoked without first having a “dip” or a “dunk.”

How is parole revoked and who makes this decision?

The decision to revoke parole will be based on a hearing in Parole Court. The hearing should occur within 20 business days of your PO submitting a report alleging that you have violated parole. You may be kept in jail until this hearing if the Parole Bureau determines you are a flight risk or incarceration is otherwise necessary.

You are allowed to present evidence and witnesses in your defense during your hearing. You are allowed to be represented by an attorney at your hearing, but you are not required to have one. It is your decision whether or not to have an attorney represent you. While most parole attorneys charge clients for their services, some will represent low-income clients for free (this is called pro bono, which means “for the public good”). See Appendix B for information on how to request a list of some parole attorneys who represent clients in Alabama, some of them on a pro bono basis. See Section III for more information on finding an attorney. SPLC does not represent individuals at parole hearings.

The hearing is presided over by a Hearing Officer, who submits his or her findings and a recommendation to the Parole Bureau. The Parole Bureau makes the final decision on whether to impose a penalty such as a dunk or full revocation, or to return you to parole supervision.51

You should know that your guilt does not have to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in a Parole Revocation Hearing in the same way that it would in a criminal trial. This means that it is easier to be found guilty of a parole violation than it is to be convicted of a crime. In general, the rules governing Parole Hearings are different than the rules of criminal trials.52

Can parole dips, dunks, or revocations be appealed?

To the best of our knowledge, these penalties cannot be appealed. However, the Parole Bureau’s rules indicate that the Bureau has the power to change its decision to revoke parole if they find it was made incorrectly.53

What will happen to me if my parole is fully revoked?

If your parole is revoked, you will have to return to prison to finish the remainder of your sentence (unless you are granted parole again).

What is the difference between criminal offenses and offenses that can lead to parole revocation?

Criminal offenses count as new crimes that, if you are convicted or plead guilty, will result in a new sentence. In contrast, parole revocation can result from actions that could count as separate crimes or actions that are not violations of the criminal law but rather of your parole conditions (such as repeatedly failing to meet with your PO). If your parole is revoked and you are not charged with a new crime, no new time or convictions will be added to your sentence.

Am I eligible to vote if I am on parole? Is there a way for me to get my voting rights back?

Maybe. Under a new law, it is possible for people convicted of crimes to register to vote while on parole. It depends on your conviction history. Some convictions don’t result in the loss of the right to vote at all, and people with those convictions can register to vote without any further requirements. Some convictions allow the person to get their right to vote restored, even while on parole, by applying for a Certificate of Eligibility to Register to Vote (CERV) with the Parole Bureau. Other people with very serious convictions may need to apply for a pardon.

For more information on voting rights restoration, go to the Alabama Voting Rights Project (AVRP) website at alabamavotingrights.com, or look at the information contained in Appendix F to this Guidebook. Appendix A also contains the contact information for AVRP’s regional representatives, who can answer additional or case-specific questions that you may have.54

Section VI: Guide for Family Members of Parole Applicants

This section of the Guidebook is meant for the loved ones and family members of people who are going through the parole process. Knowing that your loved one is coming up for parole can be an incredibly exciting prospect. Luckily, there are things that you can do to him or her go through the process. Of course, whether or not that person makes parole is ultimately up to the Parole Bureau. However, there are things that you can do to help the person seeking parole go through the process, and even increase the chance of making parole.

What can I do if my loved one is up for parole?

There are several ways you can support a loved one who is coming up for parole:

  • If you can and want to, you can attend your loved one’s parole hearing in person and show the Parole Board members that the parole applicant has strong support. See Section III of this Guidebook for more information on what to expect from the Parole Hearing.
  • You can help your loved one find a place to live, or offer them the opportunity to live with you, as long as your residence meets the requirements of the Parole Bureau (see the questions about Home Plans in section IV). You may, for example, help your loved one apply to halfway houses, which often list their application materials or contact information online.
  • If your loved one has a serious cognitive disability or mental health need, you can help explain parts of this Guidebook to him or her or even communicate with the Parole Bureau on his or her behalf.
  • You can help your loved one put together their “parole packet” for the Parole Bureau, which could include: any certificates from programs he or she has completed in prison, their résumé, information about home and job plans, letters of support from friends, family members, faith leaders, former employers and teachers, and other such materials.
  • You can contact the Parole Bureau on your loved one’s behalf at various points in the process – to find out the parole date, to learn whether parole was granted on the day of the hearing, and to find out when he or she will be released from prison once parole is granted. Be aware that you will need your loved one’s full name and AIS number in order to get this information from the Parole Bureau.

I want to attend the hearing – what should I expect?

It is important to be on time and to dress appropriately.

There is often a line outside of the Parole Bureau on the morning that hearings occur, so you may want to arrive early. Parking around the Parole Bureau's current location is metered, so you may want to bring quarters. You will likely be asked to provide your ID, name, address, and phone number. You may want to wear business or “church” clothes for the hearing.

During the hearing itself, the Parole Board members will commonly ask supporters, “Why should we grant parole?” or “Tell us why we should grant parole.” Family members often stress any classes that the applicant has taken or certificates he or she has received, good behavior while in prison, or plans for housing and employment.

If the applicant had no serious problems with the law before prior to conviction case or a clean disciplinary record in prison, that might be something to mention. However, the Parole Board members are generally more interested in how the parole applicant has changed during his or her time in prison. As such, you may want to talk about personal growth you have seen in your loved one, and any classes or programs your loved one has taken since being incarcerated.

The Parole Board members may ask you about your loved one’s disciplinary record. You may want to consider talking to your loved one about his or her disciplinary record in advance of the hearing so that you can be prepared for any questions about disciplinaries.

Family members can also describe community support for the applicant’s parole. Finally, family members often mention that the applicant has remorse and feels sorry for the acts leading to their conviction, if that is the case. Some family members write down what they want to say beforehand and read it aloud to the Parole Board members during the hearing, while others decide what to say in the moment.

I don’t feel comfortable speaking at the hearing. How else can I help?

The hearings are conducted in a large room that looks like a courtroom. There is plenty of space for friends and family to attend without speaking. Family members also sometimes help by trying to arrange housing or employment for the parole applicant upon release or helping the applicant put together the “parole packet.” These tasks are often difficult to do from a prison but are still taken into consideration by the Parole Bureau, so a family member may be in a powerful position to help.

Is there anything else I should keep in mind as my loved one goes through
this process?

If you are able to and choose to attend the Parole Hearing in person, you should know that there may be extended waiting involved as other Parole Hearings are conducted. You may want to bring a snack and something to drink. Family members should keep in mind that there is a possibility that parole will be denied, even if the family members make every effort to assist their loved one’s release. In most cases, you will find out whether or not your loved one has made parole shortly after the hearing begins, so you should prepare yourself for the news either way.

Are there things about the parole process that people don’t usually expect?

People may expect the hearing to be lengthy, but they are usually brief, lasting between three and ten minutes. Family members may find that they are not able to say as much as they would have liked. The victim, if any, as well as the prosecutor from your loved one's case may also be present. If they are present, they are also entitled to speak, and may speak negatively of your loved one. You will not usually be offered the chance to respond to anything said against your loved one by protestors, which may be upsetting.

What can I expect after the parole hearing?

If parole is granted for your loved one, it will take several weeks before he or she is released. Even after release, your loved one will have to follow the conditions of his or her parole, such as meeting with a parole officer regularly and staying drug free. The Parole Board members may also ask friends and family if they are willing and able to help the person on parole meet the conditions of release.

If your loved one has made a home plan at your residence, then expect an investigator from the parole office to pay you a visit. You may or may not be contacted by phone prior to the in person visit. If the investigator is not satisfied that the person on parole can meet the conditions of release while living with you, the investigator may deny the home plan. This can delay the release of your loved one by several weeks, and your loved one will be required to find alternative arrangements.

It is also important that, if you offer your residence as a home plan, you are serious about this commitment. The Parole Bureau takes home plans seriously and will come investigate your home and ask you questions. If you change your mind about having someone live with you, it can set back that person’s release by weeks or even months.

Appendix A: Relevant Contacts

Appendix B: Requesting an Attorney Referral List

Appendix C: Résumé and Cover Letter Information and Samples

Appendix D: Halfway House Guide and Map

Appendix E: Bureau of Pardons and Paroles Field Offices

Appendix F: Information on Voting Rights Restoration

Conclusion

The parole process may seem intimidating or overwhelming, but if you break it down into steps it may be easier to work through. It is important to think about release as a long-term goal and every requirement or hearing as just one step in the process. If you are discouraged about your experience seeking parole, anxious about the process, or frustrated, it may be helpful to talk to a friend, family member, or mental health provider.

Endnotes

1. Al. Exec, Order No. 716 (Oct. 15, 2018), https://governor.alabama.gov/executive-orders/executive-order-no-716/.

2. Carol Robinson, “Why was Jimmy Spencer Free to Brutally Kill 3 People, Victims’ Group Asks,” Al.com (Aug. 1, 2018), https://www.al.com/news/birmingham/2018/08/why_was_jimmy_spencer_free_to.html.

3. Act Relating to Pardons and Paroles, 2019 Alabama Laws Act 2019-3924 (H.B. 380).

4. Act Relating to Pardons and Paroles, 2019 Alabama Laws Act 2019-3924 (H.B. 380).

5. Act Relating to Pardons and Paroles, 2019 Alabama Laws Act 2019-3924 (H.B. 380).

6. Ala. Code § 15-22-26.

7. Ala. Code § 15-22-29.

8. Ala. Code § 15-22-26; § 15-22-32.

9. Ala. Code § 15-22-24(a), (e); § 15-22-26; § 12-25-32(11).

10. Compare Ala. Code § 15-22-26 (authority of Parole Bureau to grant parole) to Ala. Code § 15-22-50 (authority of judges to place people on probation).

11. U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Probation and Parole in the United States, 2016 at 18 (Apr. 2018), available at https:// www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/ppus16.pdf

12. Ala. Bur. of Pardons and Paroles, About Us, https://paroles.alabama.gov/about-us/ (last accessed Oct. 22, 2019).

13. Act Relating to Pardons and Paroles, 2019 Alabama Laws Act 2019-3924 (H.B. 380).

14. Ala. Code § 15-22-20 (b), (c).

15. Ala. Bur. of Pardons and Paroles, About Us, https://paroles.alabama.gov/about-us/ (last accessed Oct. 22, 2019).

16. Act Relating to Pardons and Paroles, 2019 Alabama Laws Act 2019-3924 (H.B. 380).

17. Ala. Bur. of Pardons and Paroles, Information, Divisions, https://paroles.alabama.gov/divisions/ (last accessed Oct. 22, 2019).

18. Ala. Bur. of Pardons and Paroles, Information, Board Operations, https://paroles.alabama.gov/board-operations/ (last accessed Oct. 22, 2019).

19. Ala. Bur. of Pardons and Paroles, Information, Field Services, https://paroles.alabama.gov/field-services/ (last accessed Oct. 22, 2019)

20. Ala. Bur. of Pardons and Paroles, Information, Special Populations and Programs, https://paroles.alabama.gov/special-popula- tions-and-programs/ (last accessed Oct. 22, 2019).

21. Amended Corrective Action Plan from Ala. Bur. of Pardons and Paroles, Dec. 28, 2018, available at https://localtvwhnt.files.wordpress. com/2018/12/Amendments-to-Corrective-Action-Plan-and-documents.pdf; Ala. Bur. of Pardons and Paroles, Information, Interstate Com- pact, https://paroles.alabama.gov/interstate-compact-unit/ (last accessed Oct. 22, 2019).

22. Ala. Bur. of Pardons and Paroles, Rules Art. 1(11)-(12), available at https://paroles.alabama.gov/wp-content/uploads/Operating_Rules.pdf

23. Ala. Code § 15-18-8.

24. Ala. Bur. of Pardons and Paroles, Rules Art. 1(4)-(8), available at https://paroles.alabama.gov/wp-content/uploads/Operating_Rules.pdf

25. Ala. Bur. of Pardons and Paroles, Rules Art. 1(8), available at https://paroles.alabama.gov/wp-content/uploads/Operating_Rules.pdf

26. Ala. Bur. of Pardons and Paroles, Rules Art. 1(9), available at https://paroles.alabama.gov/wp-content/uploads/Operating_Rules.pdf

27. Act Relating to Pardons and Paroles, 2019 Alabama Laws Act 2019-3924 (H.B. 380).

28. Ala. Bur. of Pardons and Paroles, Rules Art. 2(1)-(5), available at https://paroles.alabama.gov/wp-content/uploads/Operating_Rules.pdf.

29. Act Relating to Pardons and Paroles, 2019 Alabama Laws Act 2019-3924 (H.B. 380).

30. Ala. Bur. of Pardons and Paroles, Rules Art. 1(13)-(14), available at https://paroles.alabama.gov/wp-content/uploads/Operating_Rules.pdf

31. Ala. Bur. of Pardons and Paroles, Rules Art. 3, available at https://paroles.alabama.gov/wp-content/uploads/Operating_Rules.pdf

32. Ala. Bur. of Pardons and Paroles, Hearings, https://paroles.alabama.gov/hearing-information/scheduled-parole-hearings/ (last accessed Oct. 22, 2019).

33. Ala. Admin. Code § 640-x-1-.02; see generally Ala. Bur. of Pardons and Paroles, Hearingshttps://paroles.alabama.gov/hearing-informa- tion/scheduled-parole-hearings/ (last accessed Oct. 22, 2019).

34. Mike Cason, “Pardons and Paroles moving offices in Montgomery,” Al.com (Sept. 27, 2019), https://www.al.com/news/2019/09/par- dons-and-paroles-moving-offices-in-montgomery.html.

35. See Ala. Code § 15-22-26.

36. Interstate Comm’n for Adult Offender Supervision, About the Commission, https://www.interstatecompact.org/about (last accessed Oct. 16, 2018).

37. Ala. Bur. of Pardons and Paroles, Information, Interstate Compact, https://paroles.alabama.gov/interstate-compact-unit/ (last accessed Oct. 22, 2019).

38. Corrective Action Plan from Ala. Bd. of Pardons and Paroles (Nov. 14, 2018),

39. Ala. Bur. of Pardons and Paroles, Art. 1, available at https://paroles.alabama.gov/wp-content/uploads/Operating_Rules.pdf.

40. Ala. Bur. of Pardons and Paroles, Art. 6(11), available at https://paroles.alabama.gov/wp-content/uploads/Operating_Rules.pdf.

41. Ala. Bur. of Pardons and Paroles, Rules, Art. 6(13), available at https://paroles.alabama.gov/wp-content/uploads/Operating_Rules.pdf.

42. Ala. Bur. of Pardons and Paroles, Rules, Art. 6(9), available at https://paroles.alabama.gov/wp-content/uploads/Operating_Rules.pdf.

43. Ala. Bur. of Pardons and Paroles, Rules, Art. 2, available at https://paroles.alabama.gov/wp-content/uploads/Operating_Rules.pdf.

44. Ala. Bur. of Pardons and Paroles, Information, Frequently Asked Questions - Paroles, https://paroles.alabama.gov/resources/faqs-pa- roles/ (last accessed Oct. 22, 2019).

45. Ala. Bd. of Pardons and Paroles, About Us, Frequently Asked Questions, http://www.pardons.state.al.us/FAQ.aspx (last accessed Oct. 16, 2018).

46. See Ala. Bur. of Pardons and Paroles, Hearings, https://paroles.alabama.gov/hearing-information/parole-results-current-y... (last accessed Oct. 22, 2019) (listing results of parole hearings by month, including conditions imposed).

47.Ala. Bd. of Pardons and Paroles, Divisions, http://www.pardons.state.al.us/Divisions.aspx (last accessed Oct. 16, 2018).

48. See generally Ala. Bur. of Pardons and Paroles, Rules, https://paroles.alabama.gov/wp-content/uploads/Operating_Rules.pdf (last accessed Oct. 22, 2019)..

49. Ala. Bur. of Pardons and Paroles, Locations, https://paroles.alabama.gov/about-us/locations/locations-by-county/ (last accessed Oct. 22, 2019).

50. Ala. Bur. of Pardons and Paroles, Rules, Art. 11, https://paroles.alabama.gov/wp-content/uploads/Operating_Rules.pdf (last accessed Oct. 22, 2019); Ala. Bur. of Pardons and Paroles, Rules, Art. 12, https://paroles.alabama.gov/wp-content/uploads/Operating_Rules.pdf (last accessed Oct. 22, 2019).

51. Ala. Bur. Of Pardons and Paroles, Rules, Art. 11, https://paroles.alabama.gov/wp-content/uploads/Operating_Rules.pdf (last accessed Oct. 22, 2019).

52. Ala. Bur. of Pardons and Paroles, Rules, Art. 12, https://paroles.alabama.gov/wp-content/uploads/Operating_Rules.pdf (last accessed Oct. 22, 2019).

53. See Ala. Code. § 15-22-76; see also Johnson v. State, 729 So.2d 897 (Ala. Crim. App. 1997) (outlining procedures required in Alabama parole revocation proceedings).

54. Ala. Bur. of Pardons and Paroles, Rules, Art. 14(6), https://paroles.alabama.gov/wp-content/uploads/Operating_Rules.pdf (last accessed Oct. 22, 2019).

55. Ala. Code. § 17-3-30.1; § 17-4-3; § 17-4-4.