Making parole after serving a lengthy prison sentence may feel like a victory after years of fighting for your own freedom—and you should be proud. However, parole does not give you free rein to do whatever you’d like once you get out of prison.
You will find it is quite the opposite.
On parole, you may face harsh restrictions, financial issues, and heightened levels of stress. Keep headstrong, though: despite all the burdens parole may throw your way, you have an opportunity to lay the foundation for a better life in the future. Read on to learn more about:
- How Parole Works and What to Expect if Vying for Eligibility;
- Conditions and Restrictions Imposed During Parole; and
- Your Legal Rights as a Parolee and Why You Should Use Them.
What is Parole and How Does it Work?
Many may think parole is as simple as monitored freedom from prison; though you have some guidelines, you luckily are not in jail.
This is a huge misconception. Parole may be considered ‘conditional freedom’ by the criminal justice system, but parole can turn into prison outside the bars depending on your circumstances. You may have the ability to find employment, maintain a residence, and get in touch with family and friends. Still, you also may face limitations that, with the slightest slip-up, could land you in violation of your parole.
The purpose of parole is to reintegrate and help decide former prisoners into society through conditions that encourage good behavior.
Parole comes in place of serving the remainder of a prison sentence. You may have seen or heard about parole hearings from movies or TV, where a person in prison sits in front of a board that determines their eligibility for release. This decision typically centers around the question of whether the person has been rehabilitated or not during their time in prison.
Those who are not eligible are usually those sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
If eligible, the parole board will set parameters for a parolee’s release; these conditions and restrictions put in place guidelines to be followed for their transition back to life after prison.
Conditions of Parole: Facing the Tough and Unpredictable with a Level Head
When we said ‘monitored freedom’ was a misconception of what parole actually is, we referred to parole guidelines: limits on your life that could send you back to prison if not closely followed.
These can be straining and feel too restrictive; parolees sometimes express wishes to return to prison for the structure and to avoid parole altogether. However, stay headstrong. Despite its conditions, staying within the boundaries of your parole can lead to your future success.
The following are requirements the court might order be a part of your parole period:
- Reporting to your parole officer: the courts will determine how often it is necessary for you to meet with your parole officer. Usually, once a month is sufficient to maintain contact and check in on your status.
- Setting up living arrangements or supervision programs: your parole officer may recommend placing you in a halfway house or drug recovery program. These arrangements allow for meetings with your parole officer to continue.
- Restrictions on Living/Travel: these might require you not to leave the state or live within the boundaries of a given city.
- Employment Requirement: a condition of your parole will be finding employment and being able to show proof of employment.
- Prohibition of All Drugs, Including Alcohol: this may go without saying, but using illegal drugs while on parole is a no-go. However, it’s not uncommon for courts to ban the parolee’s access to and use of alcohol for the duration of their parole.
- Not Contacting Any Victims of Crimes: contacting victims of an alleged crime is a serious parole violation. If your significant other or a family member was the victim of the crime that eventually sent you to prison, there’s a good chance you won’t be allowed to contact them.
These restrictions may prove difficult, especially if your parole lasts multiple years. You might have other factors in your life that cause stress, like divorce-related child custody issues that limit your contact with family. Luckily, Maryland doesn’t require an incarcerated parent to pay child support; however, 60 days after your prison sentence ends, you will. These costs, on top of any cost related to your parole or sentence (restitution, supervision fees, and so on), might start to add up.
The best thing you can do is resist the urge to give up or give in. Parole may feel abnormal, frustrating, and degrading, but sticking to the guidelines will lead to your eventual freedom. You may even be able to build yourself a better life after parole than the one you had before your sentence. The last thing you want is to lose your access to friends, family, and the stepping-stones to a normal life.
However, should anything happen during your parole, you still have legal options if the state sends you back to court with the chance of you heading off to jail.
Legal Defense Against Parole Violations
Suppose your parole officer (or any law enforcement officer) alleges you violated the requirements of your parole. In that case, you may face revocation of parole hearing to determine if you should be sent back to prison.
Luckily, you have the right to legal counsel in these cases as you would in a normal criminal trial. There’s a chance you may face additional criminal charges depending on the conditions of your parole hearing, so having a lawyer on board for the entire process is very important.
Your lawyer has the option to call witnesses, present evidence, cross-examine the prosecution’s witnesses, and even request a postponement. Using these, they may look at how your parole officer communicated the terms of your parole and frame it as a misunderstanding rather than a purposeful criminal act against your guidelines. Even in a case where you admit to the violation, you can still work with your lawyer to mitigate its effects on your life going forward.
If you need legal representation for a parole-related hearing, contact our offices for a free initial consultation. Our highly skilled criminal defense attorneys know how to approach a wide array of situations and will aggressively fight on behalf of your future. Don’t hesitate; get in touch with us today to take the next step in safeguarding your freedom.