Information Considered at a Parole Suitability Hearing

The purpose of a parole suitability hearing is to determine whether an inmate currently poses an unreasonable risk of danger to society if released from prison. In making this determination, the hearing panel will consider all relevant, reliable information available to the panel, statements from the inmate, victims, victims’ family, and statements from the district attorney’s office and the public.

The panel will review and ask the inmate questions about his or her social history, past and present mental state, past and present attitude toward the crime, criminal history, and other criminal misconduct that has been reliably documented, as well as the inmate’s commitment offense(s). The panel will also consider the inmate’s behavior before, during, and after the crime(s). In addition, the hearing panel will consider special conditions under which the inmate may safely be released to the community and any other information which bears on the inmate’s suitability for release.

There are a number of factors the Board will consider that tend to show an inmate’s suitability and unsuitability for parole. These factors are general guidelines and “the importance attached to any circumstance or combination of circumstances in a particular case is left to the judgment of the panel.” Additionally, the California Supreme Court has held that “the presence or absence of insight is a significant factor in determining whether there is a rational nexus between the inmate’s dangerous past behavior and the threat the inmate currently poses to public safety.” Some examples of factors the Board will consider include the following:

Factors Tending to Show Parole Suitability

  • lack of a juvenile record or significant history of violent crime
  • crime was committed as a result of significant stress
  • stable social history
  • remorse and understanding of the nature and magnitude of the offense
  • present age reduces the probability of recidivism
  • realistic plans for release and marketable skills
  • institutional behavior indicates an enhanced ability to function within the law upon release

Factors Tending to Show Parole Unsuitability

  • the commitment offense was committed in an especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel manner
  • previous record of inflicting or attempting to inflict serious injury on a victim, particularly if serious assaultive behavior was demonstrated at an early age
  • unstable social history
  • prior sexual assault in a manner calculated to inflict unusual pain or fear upon the victim
  • lengthy history or severe mental problems related to the offense
  • serious misconduct while in prison or jail