Those sentenced with an indefinite term (7 to Life, 15 to Life, etc.) with the possibility of parole, have to obtain a “grant” of release from the Board of Parole Hearings (“BPH”). Click here http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/BOPH/lifer_parole_process.html to learn more about the parole process.
Getting Ready for the Parole Hearing
For family members, the best way to support an inmate through the parole hearing process is to make sure s/he has the appropriate support letters from friends and family on the outside. Family members can also perform a lot of the legwork in getting other support letters that are needed from potential employers, re-entry facilities, churches, support groups, etc. This process should be started at least six (6) months before the hearing so that everything that is needed can be sent to the attorney in time.
Support Letters are letters sent by family or others associated with the inmate who are willing to provide specific support to the inmate upon release. Letters should identify your relationship to the inmate, the years of knowledge if applicable, and the specific support that you are committing to provide. While housing, employment, and transportation are probably the core issues of support, friends and family can indicate the willingness to provide transportation, moral support, loans, tuition, medical coverage, and any other element reasonably related to helping that individual get along in society. These letters should show that the inmate has:
- Solid job prospects, offers of employment
- Offers of a place to live. This location has to be satisfactory to the Department of Parole Operations (“DAPO”), and DAPO will send one or more parole officers to inspect the proposed living quarters.
- If the inmate has been incarcerated for a long time; it is generally anticipated that s/he will need the services of a re-entry facility in order to ease the individual to life in the free world. Family members may be involved in choosing a re-entry facility, especially as many of them have a waiting list, eligibility requirements, and often a fee. A letter confirming their place at the re-entry facility should be considered a must have item.
- Many inmates have some form of substance abuse associated with the crime, and will have one or more parole conditions prohibiting the use or possession of liquor or controlled substances. The parole Commissioners will generally be looking for letters from Alcoholic Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, religious clergy, or other sources of help on the outside. While the inmate should address his or her support group(s) in an anti-relapse plan, there should be letters from these groups confirming that the support is locally available in the area where the inmate intends to reside.
IMPORTANT: BPH guidelines limit the “new material” that an inmate can bring to his/her hearing . Families should make every effort to assure that support letters are mailed several weeks before the hearing, with copies to the inmate and to his/her attorney.
Attending the Parole Hearing
Family members are not allowed to attend Board of Parole hearings unless the family member is a victim. The inmate will learn about the decision of the Board within an hour after the hearing. This decision will be reviewed at several levels.