What to Expect at a Parole Suitability Hearing

One of the first things a hearing panel will do at a parole suitability hearing is have all parties attending the hearing identify themselves for the record. All parole suitability hearings are recorded and transcribed.

The hearing panel will then address any preliminary issues the parties may have. For example, there may be a request to postpone the hearing.

Another preliminary issue that may be addressed is a request from the inmate to stipulate to being unsuitable for parole. This means the inmate is requesting to be denied parole without a parole suitability hearing. If the offer to stipulate is accepted by the hearing panel, the inmate will be denied parole for 15, 10, 7, 5, or 3 years and the parole suitability hearing will not occur.

Once preliminary issues are considered and resolved and it is determined the hearing will go forward, the hearing panel will begin reviewing relevant information and asking the inmate questions. Once the panel finishes reviewing documents and questioning the inmate, the district attorney’s representative will have an opportunity to ask the panel clarifying questions, the inmate will then have an opportunity to make a closing statement, followed by closing statements from the inmate’s attorney and the district attorney’s representative. Victims, the victims’ family, and their representative or attorney will then be asked to provide their statements to the hearing panel.

After the hearing panel has questioned the inmate, reviewed relevant documents, and heard from all hearing participants, the panel will excuse everyone from the hearing room and will deliberate in closed session. The panel will then have everyone return to the hearing room and announce its decision. A hearing panel may grant the inmate parole, deny the inmate parole, or the hearing may result in a “tie vote” if it is a two-person panel and the hearing panel cannot agree on a decision. If the inmate is denied parole, the panel will announce the length of the inmate’s denial. Inmates may be denied parole for a period of 15, 10, 7, 5, or 3 years.

Infrequently, a case results in a “tie vote.” But when it happens, each panel member will announce his or her proposed decision on the record and the case will be forwarded to the full Board for review and a vote at one of the Board’s monthly Executive Board meetings, also referred to as an “en banc” review.

In rare circumstances, the panel may stop a hearing and continue the case if a decision cannot be made without additional information. If this happens, the Board will reschedule the hearing in approximately four to six months and notify all parties of the new hearing date. The Board will make every effort to reconvene the same hearing panel to finish the case. However, if it is not possible to reconvene the same panel, the Board will schedule a hearing once the additional information is available and a full new hearing will be conducted with a new hearing panel.