Parole Suitability Hearings
A parole suitability hearing is a hearing conducted by the Board of Parole Hearings (Board) to determine if an inmate should be released from prison.
A parole suitability hearing is often a very stressful and significant event for inmates, victims, victims’ family members, correctional staff, and the community. The Board is dedicated to protecting public safety, treating all persons who participate in a parole hearing with respect and dignity, applying the law in an unbiased manner, and protecting the rights of inmates and victims.
The Board conducts parole suitability hearings for a variety of inmates who are sentenced to lengthy prison terms, including:
- Inmates sentenced to life with the possibility of parole, commonly referred to as life-term inmates or “lifers,” once they have served a certain amount of time based on the sentence imposed by the court.
- Inmates sentenced to life with the possibility of parole for a nonviolent offense under an alternative sentencing scheme, such as the state’s Three Strikes Law, once they have served a certain amount of time based on their commitment offense.
- Youth offenders –inmates who were under the age of 26 at the time of their offense, who have served a minimum of 15, 20, or 25 years of continuous incarceration, depending on the sentence imposed by the court, and who are eligible for a youth offender hearing.
- Inmates who are age 50 or older, who have served 20 years of continuous incarceration, and who are eligible for the state’s elderly parole program.
The purpose of a parole suitability hearing is to determine if an inmate should be released from prison. Parole suitability hearings are usually conducted in-person at the prison where the inmate is located. However, inmates serving their California prison sentence in another state may have their parole hearing conducted by telephone or via video-conference. Hearings are conducted by a two or three-person panel comprised of commissioners and a deputy commissioner.