What happens when someone is in prison but is eligible for parole? How does one get parole? Can you get parole without the help of an attorney? These are questions we often get here at KD Trial Lawyers: here are some answers.
Parole eligibility is calculated by the South Carolina Department of Corrections based on laws passed by the Legislature and internal guidance. Once an inmate is eligible for parole, a hearing will be set before the South Carolina Board of Paroles and Pardons.
The South Carolina Board of Paroles and Pardons is composed of seven members, one from each of the state's congressional districts. The Governor appoints all, subject to approval by the Senate. They serve six-year staggered terms and can be reappointed.
The Parole Board is required by law to carefully consider the record of a prisoner before, during and after imprisonment. S.C. Code 24-21-640. “No such prisoner may be paroled until it appears to the satisfaction of the board that the prisoner has shown a disposition to reform, that in the future he will probably obey the law and lead a correct life, that by his conduct he has merited a lessening of the rigors of his imprisonment, that the interest of society will not be impaired thereby, and that suitable employment has been secured for him.”
The Board itself designates specific but non-exhaustive parole criteria that the Parole Board is to consider when deciding whether to release an offender on parole. Most of these criteria are related to underlying crime, prior criminal history, efforts made by the offender to improve themselves, health, future of the offender, and any input the victim or their family may have on the offender receiving parole. The Parole Board will deliberate and issue an order, but it is unlikely that the order will contain detailed information on why the Board made the decision it did about whether to release a person on parole. The parole process can be very frustrating for all parties involved. Unlike criminal court, there is no discovery process, and the Parole Board votes are made in secret.
If someone makes parole and then later violates, then a series of hearings are held to determine whether that person should go back to the Department of Corrections. The first hearing will be before an administrative hearing officer and the second and/or third hearings will be before the Parole Board or a three-person panel from the Parole Board. The administrative hearing officer can make recommendations to the Board and then send the case up to a Board panel or they can make their own ruling short of a parole revocation. The Board will consider the same sort of criteria as they do when they consider whether to release someone on parole.The parole process, whether it be trying to get parole or dealing with a parole violation, can be difficult for people, especially when they do not have counsel. If you or someone you love is dealing with a Parole Board matter, KD Trial Lawyers is here to help.