September 22, 2009
Laws Governing Parole
By: Christopher Reinhart, Senior Attorney
You asked about laws governing parole. This report has been updated by OLR Report 2018-R-0177.
The Board of Pardons and Paroles has independent decision-making authority to (1) grant or deny parole, (2) set conditions of parole, and (3) rescind or revoke parole.
Inmates who are sentenced to more than two years in prison can be considered for parole. Inmates convicted of non-violent crimes are eligible to be considered for parole after serving 50% of their sentence. Inmates who committed violent crimes are eligible to be considered for parole after serving 85% of their sentence. Those convicted of certain crimes, like murder, are not eligible for parole. The law requires a parole hearing at certain points in an inmate’s sentence.
In some circumstances, inmates nearing the end of their sentence or scheduled parole release date can be released before that date. The board can also release certain inmates on medical or compassionate parole.
A parole release panel consisting of three board members conducts parole hearings. A hearing cannot be held unless the chairman certifies that all pertinent information has been obtained or is unavailable. Victims must be allowed to appear and make a statement or submit a statement at a parole hearing. The board can release someone on parole if there is a reasonable probability that the inmate will live and remain at liberty without violating the law and the release is not incompatible with the welfare of society. The panel sets the terms and conditions of the inmate’s parole. Department of Correction (DOC) personnel supervise inmates on parole.
A board employee conducts a parole revocation or rescission hearing. If the employee recommends revocation or rescission, two members of a board panel must approve it. A paroled inmate can be returned to prison for up to the rest of his or her sentence. The law requires an incremental sanctions system for parole violators and allows the parolee to be returned to custody. The board can again consider paroling an inmate.
In this report, we do not discuss special parole, which a judge can impose as part of an inmate’s sentence, or the provisions on deportation or the Interstate Compact for Adult Offender Supervision.
GENERAL PAROLE ELIGIBILITY RULES
Inmates who are sentenced to more than two years in prison can be considered for release from prison on parole. Inmates convicted of non-violent crimes are eligible for parole after serving 50% of their sentence. Inmates who committed violent crimes are eligible for parole after serving 85% of their sentence. Those convicted of the following crimes are not eligible for parole: capital felony, felony murder, arson murder, murder, and 1st degree aggravated sexual assault (CGS § 54-125a).
PAROLE ORIENTATION PROGRAM
The board consults with the DOC commissioner to establish a parole orientation program for all parole-eligible inmates when they are taken into DOC custody to provide general information on parole release laws and policies, calculate time-served standards, general conditions of release, supervision practices, revocation and rescission policies, procedures for hearings, and other information the board deems relevant to prepare an inmate for parole (CGS § 54-124a).
OTHER PAROLE RELEASE PROVISIONS
In addition to the general parole eligibility rules, the law establishes four additional specific types of parole that an inmate can be considered for: (1) release with six months or less left on the inmate’s sentence, (2) release within 18 months of parole release date, (3) medical parole, and (4) compassionate parole.
Release With Six Months or Less Left on Sentence
An inmate with six months or less left on his or her sentence can be granted parole if the inmate agrees to be (1) subject to supervision by DOC personnel for one year and (2) retained in prison for up to the length of the unexpired prison sentence if he or she violates the conditions of parole. Someone whose crime makes them ineligible for parole or eligible after serving 85% of his or her sentence must serve 95% of the sentence before being eligible for release under this provision (CGS § 54-125g).
Release Within 18 Months of Parole Release Date
The board chairman can transfer an inmate to a public or private nonprofit halfway house, group home, mental health facility, or approved community or private residence if he or she (1) has been granted parole release and (2) is within 18 months of the parole release date set by the board. The person is transferred to the board’s jurisdiction but remains in DOC custody during the period of release and DOC employees supervise the person. The person may be returned to prison at any time (CGS § 54-125h).
The board can release someone on medical parole at a date and under conditions it sets. The board can release an inmate (unless he or she was convicted of capital felony) at any time during his or her sentence if the inmate is diagnosed as suffering from a terminal condition, disease, or syndrome and is so debilitated or incapacitated by it as to be physically incapable of presenting a danger to society.
A licensed physician must make the diagnosis which must (1) describe the terminal condition, disease, or syndrome; (2) include a prognosis of the likelihood of recovery; and (3) describe the inmate’s physical incapacity. If the diagnosis is made by a physician who is not employed by DOC or a hospital or medical facility used by DOC, the DOC medical director or a physician appointed by the DOC commissioner can review it. A terminal condition, disease, or syndrome includes a prognosis for six months or less to live.
The board must require as a condition of release that the parolee agree to placement and that he or she is able to be placed for a definite or indefinite period of time in a hospital, hospice, or other housing accommodation suitable to the medical condition, including the inmate’s family, as specified by the board. The board can require periodic diagnoses as a condition of release. If the board review the diagnoses and finds that a parolee is no longer so debilitated or incapacitated as to be physically incapable of presenting a danger to society, the parolee must be returned to a DOC institution.
The board, DOC commissioner, or a prison warden or superintendent can request a diagnosis to determine eligibility for medical parole. The inmate or the inmate’s spouse, parent, guardian, grandparent, aunt, uncle, sibling, child over age 18, or attorney can make a request to the board or one of the officials for a diagnosis.
The board can appoint a special panel to implement these provisions. The special panel must review and decide requests for medical parole on an emergency basis and act in all cases in as expeditious a manner as possible. This does not affect an inmate’s eligibility for any other form of parole or release (CGS § 54-131a et seq.).
The board can grant compassionate parole release to an inmate (other than those convicted of capital felony) if the inmate (1) served at least half of the sentence or half after the board commuted the original sentence and (2) is so physically or mentally debilitated, incapacitated, or infirm due to advanced age or a condition, disease, or syndrome that is not terminal as to be physically incapable of presenting a danger to society. A person granted release under this provision must be released under terms and conditions set by the board and supervised by DOC (CGS § 54-131k).
The law requires the board to hold a hearing to determine someone’s suitability for parole if the person has served (1) 75% of his or her sentence and was eligible for parole after serving 50% of the sentence or (2) 85% of his or her sentence and was eligible for parole after serving 85% of the sentence. A board employee or a panel, if the chairman deems it necessary, must reassess the suitability for parole based on whether (1) there is a reasonable probability that the person will live and remain at liberty without violating the law and (2) the benefits to the person and society resulting from release to community supervision substantially outweigh the benefits from continued incarceration. If the board determines that continued incarceration is necessary after a hearing, it must state specific reasons on the record why the person and public would not benefit from a period of parole supervision while transitioning from incarceration to the community. The board’s decision cannot be appealed (CGS § 54-125a(d) and (e)).
Parole release panels consisting of three board members conduct parole release hearings. A panel cannot hold a hearing unless the board chairman has made reasonable efforts to determine the existence of and obtain all information pertinent to the panel's decision. The chairman must certify that the information has been obtained or is unavailable. The state’s attorney must send the board the record of someone sentenced to more than one year in prison within three weeks of the person being committed to custody (CGS §§ 54-124a, -125a).
The board can release someone on parole if it appears from all available information that there is a reasonable probability that the inmate will live and remain at liberty without violating the law and the release is not incompatible with the welfare of society. Under the terms and conditions set by the panel, the parolee may return to his or her home, reside in a residential community center (the parolee may be required to contribute to costs), or go elsewhere. The parolee remains under the board’s jurisdiction until the maximum term of the parole’s sentence expires. The parole order must set the limits of the parolee’s residence, which the board and DOC have discretion to change. DOC personnel supervise people on parole (CGS § 54-125a).
At panel hearings to determine an inmate’s eligibility for parole, the panel must permit the crime victim to appear to make a statement for the record on whether the inmate should be released on parole or the nature of any terms or conditions of release. A victim can submit a written statement which becomes part of the record instead of appearing.
A “crime victim” is someone who is a victim of a crime, a victim’s legal representative, a member of a deceased victim’s immediate family, or a person designated by a deceased victim in a document that meets certain legal requirements.
Nothing in the statute prohibits the board from using its discretion to permit a member or members of a victim’s immediate family to appear and make a statement under this provision (CGS § 54-126a).
CONDITIONS OF RELEASE
The board can set rules and regulations as it deems necessary for an inmate being released on parole and the panel for a particular case can set special provisions for the inmate’s parole. The chairman enforces the rules, regulations, and provisions and can retake and imprison the parolee for any reason the panel or the chairman with the panel’s approval deems sufficient. The chairman can detain a person pending the panel’s approval (CGS § 54-126).
The board’s website has information on conditions of parole, see http://www.ct.gov/doc/cwp/view.asp?a=1520&Q=270076&docNav=| and http://www.ct.gov/doc/lib/doc/pdf/paroleconditions.pdf.
The board, within available appropriations, can require an inmate to undergo specialized sexual offender treatment for at least one year before the board will schedule a hearing date to consider parole eligibility (CGS § 54-125c).
INCREMENTAL SANCTIONS FOR PAROLE VIOLATIONS
The board consults with the DOC commissioner to establish an incremental sanctions system for parole violations. This includes reincarceration based on the type, severity, and frequency of the violation and specific periods of incarceration for certain types of violations (CGS § 54-124a).
A request by the DOC commissioner, a DOC officer, the board, or the board chairman is sufficient warrant to authorize any DOC officer or officer legally authorized to serve criminal process in Connecticut to return a person on parole to custody. Any officer, police officer, constable, or state marshal must arrest and hold any parolee or inmate when requested, without any written warrant (CGS § 54-127).
REVOCATION, RESCISSION, AND RETURN TO PRISON
The board chairman, in consultation with the board’s executive director, must adopt regulations for parole revocation and rescission hearings including due process requirements (CGS § 54-124a(j)).
A board employee must conduct all parole revocation and rescission hearings. Someone allowed to go on parole can have his or her parole revoked or rescinded if after a hearing, the employee recommends it and at least two members of a board panel approve it (CGS § 54-127a).
A paroled inmate returned to prison for violating parole can be imprisoned up to the unexpired portion of the inmate’s sentence less any commutation or diminution of sentence earned. The board has discretion to determine that an inmate forfeits any or all of the earned time (earned time laws were repealed but still apply to inmates sentenced for crimes committed before October 1, 1994). The board can again parole the inmate (CGS § 54-128).
DISCHARGE FROM CUSTODY
If a board panel determines that a parolee or someone eligible for parole will lead an orderly life, by a unanimous vote of members present at a regular meeting, it can discharge the person from DOC custody and provide a written certificate to that effect under the board’s seal and signed by the chairman and DOC commissioner (CGS § 54-129).
Employment and Services
The Connecticut Prison Association and DOC commissioner must make all reasonable efforts to secure employment and provide directly or by contract other necessary services for parolees or those discharged from custody, and the agents of the association can interview inmates before their discharge (CGS § 54-131).