This document was prepared in response to a request from the Committee on Revision of the Penal Code for an overview of discretionary parole processes administered by the Board of Parole Hearings (Board). The Board is responsible for the following discretionary parole processes:

  • parole consideration hearings for persons serving lengthy periods of incarceration;
  • parole reviews for persons serving determinate sentences for nonviolent convictions; and,
  • medical parole hearings for persons the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR or Department) refers to the Board who suffer from a significant and permanent condition, disease, or syndrome resulting in the person being physically or cognitively debilitated or incapacitated.1

The Board’s discretionary parole processes have expanded significantly since 2014, as has the number of persons approved for release through the Board’s processes. For example, eligibility for parole consideration has expanded to include youth offenders, persons eligible for elderly parole, and to persons convicted of nonviolent offenses who are eligible for parole consideration under Proposition 57.

Over the past 10 years the Board has approved the discretionary release of over 16,000 persons, including more than 8,000 “long-term” inmates granted parole after a full parole hearing and another 8,000 determinately-sentenced nonviolent offenders approved for release under the Board’s administrative parole review processes.2

The Board conducts parole hearings for persons who are serving lengthier sentences for the most violent offenses, including murder. Despite the increase in the number of persons granted parole through the parole hearing process, the recidivism rate for persons released after a parole hearing remains very low. Only two to four percent of persons released after a parole hearing recidivate, with less than one percent being convicted of a new felony crime involving harm to another person.3