When considering for parole those offenders who will become statutorily eligible for parole consideration and who are serving less than a life sentence, the Board receives a recommendation of months, or a percentage of the sentence, to serve. This recommendation is obtained from the Parole Decision Guidelines system, which accounts for the severity of the crime and the offender's risk to reoffend. The offender's risk to reoffend is determined by weighted factors concerning the offender's criminal and social history that the Board has found to have value predicting the probability of further criminal behavior.
The application of the Parole Decision Guidelines to the circumstances of the offender's case begins with a Board Hearing Examiner identifying the offender's Crime Severity Level from a table of offenses ranked in seven levels for offenses committed prior to 2006, and eight levels for offenses committed on or after January 1, 2006. The higher the severity level of the offense, the more serious the Parole Board views the crime.
The Parole Board has revised its Parole Decision Guidelines grid and changed the manner in which it evaluates offenders for cases considered after January 1, 2008. The Parole Board made these changes because it determined that it was in the public’s best interest, and specifically in the best interest of the criminal justice community (e.g. Superior Court Judges, District Attorneys, defense attorneys and law enforcement officials) to adopt revised Parole Decision Guidelines that incorporate a scientifically based, data-driven risk instrument with new time to serve guidelines. These new Guidelines represent for the first time a linkage with the statewide-average length of prison sentences imposed by Superior Court Judges.
In the new Parole Decision Guidelines grid, the minimum mid-point Parole Decision Guidelines recommendation for each Crime Severity Level represents one-third, or more, of the Statewide-average prison sentence for all crimes assigned said Crime Severity Level.
These amendments to the Parole Decision Guidelines were preceded by a three-year study and analysis of risk factors utilized in granting clemency to offenders, past clemency practices, and the effects of the new guidelines on prison capacity. The Board’s new Parole Decision Guidelines represent its best effort to protect the public from harm by maximizing the utility of the state’s prison system by ensuring that the most dangerous offenders are incarcerated for the longest period of time possible, given the State’s available resources.
The Hearing Examiner cross-references the offender's Crime Severity Level and Risk to Re-Offend Score on the Guidelines Grid component of the Parole Decision Guidelines System. The Guidelines Grid provides a months-to-serve or a percentage of the prison sentence recommendation for the Board's consideration. The Board adopted various percentages of the sentence for Level VIII offenses, rather than an across-the-board percentage (e.g., 90%), because the law governing parole guidelines requires that the guidelines take into consideration not just the severity of the crime, but "the inmate's conduct, and the social factors which the Board has found to have value predicting the probability of further criminal behavior." (See O.C.G.A. 42-9-40).
The Board may accept or reject the recommendation from the Guidelines. The Board specifically reserves the right to exercise its discretion under Georgia Law to disagree with the recommendation resulting from application of the Parole Decision Guidelines and to make an independent decision to deny parole or to establish a Tentative Parole Month (TPM) at any time prior to sentence expiration.
The Board then sends the inmate a notice advising of its decision and emphasizing that any Tentative Parole Month is conditioned on good conduct in prison and sometimes successful completion of a drug, alcohol, sex-offender counseling program, or other pre-condition(s). Reports from the Department of Corrections of misconduct by the offender usually result in parole postponement or cancellation. Rehabilitative efforts on the part of the inmate can result in the Board advancing a TPM a few months. (See Performance Incentive Credit Program below).
The Board reserves the right to withdraw the grant of parole prior to the effective date if, in its discretion, it believes it to be in the public interest to do so.
Verification of Residence Plans
It is necessary that an inmate have an acceptable residence plan before his or her release on parole. Residence plans will not be verified until and unless the Board has tentatively decided to grant parole and the TPM for the inmate approaches.
Georgia Inmates May Apply for Out-of-State Parole
An offender who wants to be paroled to another state should notify the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles of his specific residence, giving the complete address to the Parole Investigator who interviews him for the Personal History Statement before his initial consideration or by writing directly to the Board's Interstate Compact Office.
An offender has legitimate reasons to request out-of-state parole if he or she has been a resident of the proposed receiving state, and if his or her family lives there. The proposed receiving state investigates the offender's parole plans and decides whether to accept him or her for supervision. The Georgia Board must also approve the offender's parole plans, but only the Georgia Parole Board may grant parole.
Consideration of Inmate with Detainer
A detainer indicating that an offender is wanted to face charges or serve a sentence may be filed with the Department of Corrections by local authorities, another state, federal authorities, or the military. A detainer does not prevent an offender from being considered by the Parole Board. The Board may parole the inmate "to the detainer," known as a "Conditional Transfer," and thereby transfer custody of the offender to the requesting authority. If that authority releases the offender before the end of the Georgia sentence, he or she becomes a parolee under the supervision of the Board.
Because detainers against Georgia offenders are filed with the Department of Corrections, all inquiries about them should be directed to that Department or to the requesting authority.
Performance Incentive Credit Program
In 1992, the Georgia Legislature passed a law creating an inmate performance incentive credit program (PIC). Eligible inmates may have their TPM advanced a few months by satisfactory progress in education or treatment programs and work programs.
A final decision to grant or deny Performance Incentive Credits is left to the Board’s discretion. Inmates sentenced to life in prison are not eligible for the PIC program.