Parole is the discretionary decision of the State Board of Pardons and Paroles to release a certain offender from confinement after he or she has served an appropriate portion of a prison sentence. Parole allows for an offender to serve a portion of the term of imprisonment under supervision, in the community, rather than in prison. Persons on parole remain under state supervision and control according to conditions which, if violated, allow for re-imprisonment.
Probation is an act of the court, not of the State Board of Pardons and Paroles. Probation instead of imprisonment may be ordered by a court for all or part of a person's sentence. Probation is not parole. Parole may be granted only by the Parole Board after a person has served part of his sentence in prison. Parole is community supervision by the State Board of Pardons and Paroles. Probation is community supervision by the Department of Corrections.
A parole-eligible inmate serving a felony sentence in the custody of the Department of Corrections is automatically considered for parole, regardless of appeals or other legal action by the inmate or by his or her representative. No application is necessary. Representation by an attorney or any other organization is not needed. Inmates or family do not need to write the Parole Board in order to be considered for parole. Inmates do not need to get family and friends to call or visit the Board’s Central Office.
Most Georgia inmates have a right to be considered for parole, but they do not have a right or "liberty interest" which requires release on parole.
Most parole-eligible inmates become statutorily eligible for parole consideration after serving one-third of their prison sentence.
State inmates are considered for parole automatically unless required to serve the entire sentence as mandated by Georgia law. Inmates serving a non-life sentence for one or more of the "serious violent felonies" committed on or after January 1, 1995, are not eligible for parole and must serve 100% of the prison term imposed by the Judge. The "serious violent felonies" are murder, rape, aggravated child molestation, aggravated sodomy, aggravated sexual battery, armed robbery, and kidnapping.
Also not eligible are those inmates sentenced as a recidivist (convicted of a fourth felony), or sentenced to life without parole or those under a death sentence. By law, all other inmates in state custody are considered for parole at least once during their prison term.
Some life sentenced inmates become eligible for consideration after fourteen years, (committed offense prior to July 1, 2006), others after thirty years (committed offense after July 1, 2006), and a select few are eligible after seven years (committed offense prior to 1995 or the life sentence was for sale of drugs). Under Georgia law, some life sentenced inmates are not eligible for any parole. Inmates should review the “Time Served Rules” in the Inmate Handbook.
Inmates serving non-life sentences who are denied parole will be automatically reconsidered by the Board at least every five years after becoming eligible for parole. Inmates who are serving life sentences who are denied parole, will, by policy, be reconsidered for parole at regular intervals not to exceed eight years.
For inmates eligible for parole consideration and not sentenced to life, at the time of consideration, the Board may establish a Tentative Parole Month (TPM) for parole on a date in the future or the Board may deny parole entirely. The TPM represents a portion of the prison sentence the inmate should serve prior to release to parole. The Board may reconsider and change a prior decision in a case, for any reason, at any time, up to the time of release.
The Board considers all available information before granting a tentative parole month or TPM in a case. There is no set timeline for a decision to be made. Once the Board reaches a decision, the inmate will be notified and the inmate will be able to notify family. The parole consideration process includes investigations on the inmate that take time to complete. Next the case file is assigned to a Hearing Examiner, who studies it and calculates the Parole Decision Guidelines recommendation. (*see guidelines under Parole Selection)
Next the offender’s case file is given to one of the five Board Members, who studies it, deliberates alone, and renders his or her independent decision.
On non-life cases, Board Members determine whether the Guidelines recommendation for parole denial or for a tentative parole month (TPM) is appropriate or whether mitigating or aggravating factors should override the recommendation. The Board Member can determine more or less of the prison sentence should be served prior to parole.
The case file is then passed on to a second member and the process continues until the majority decision has been reached on whether or not to parole the individual, and if so, when.
If a TPM is set by the Board, that is a future tentative parole date. It is not a final parole grant and it does not guarantee that the inmate will be paroled.
At the time of the TPM, a final review of the case determines if a release date is set by the Board.
If the Board is inclined to consider parole for an inmate before service of one-third of the sentence, Georgia law requires the Board to write the sentencing judge, district attorney, and victim and give them ten days to express their views. If there is a protest, the Board Members consider any response from these individuals.
It is a carefully researched method of standardizing offenders' confinement times based on crime severity and parole risk. Implemented in 1979 and revised several times since, the Parole Decision Guidelines is used to assist the Board in making consistent, soundly based, and understandable parole decisions on inmates serving non-life sentences. The offender's likelihood of success on parole (risk to re-offend) is measured by weighted factors concerning the offender's criminal and social history which the Board has found to have value predicting the probability of further criminal behavior and successful adjustment under parole supervision.