IT’S YOUR CHOICE – SUCCESSFUL PAROLE
You will have a lot of freedom while you are on parole. How well you do will be up to you. In order to be successful, you will need to play by the rules and make sure that your basic needs are being met. Basic needs include things like housing, employment, disability benefits, medical benefits, mental health services and substance abuse treatment. You may need some or all of these things. This handbook will provide you with information that will help you understand what will be expected of you while you are on parole and how to get the help that you need to be successful.
A GOOD ATTITUDE IS A KEY TO SUCCESS
Attitude is important. You are in charge of your attitude. Your attitude will influence the way that people react to you. A good attitude will help you get a job. It will also help you develop good relationships with your coworkers, friends, family and loved ones. A good attitude will help you feel better about yourself.
THINGS YOU NEED TO DO IN PRISON
There are several things that you can do to prepare yourself for parole while you are still in prison. Planning ahead may make the difference between a difficult and an easy transition. Doing the following things while you are in prison will give you the advantage when you are released to parole:
- Read your Title 15. This book explains your rights as an inmate and parolee.
- Apply for “good time” credit as soon as you can.
- Ask your correctional counselor to help you try and clear any active warrants you may have. Your correctional counselor can write a letter on your behalf to request that active warrants be dismissed because you are in prison. Failing to clear active warrants could negatively impact you.
- If you are interested in a transfer of your parole, ask your correctional counselor to put in the paperwork at least 180 days before you get out.
- Find out what programs might be available to you in prison. The prison may have programs that deal with education, job training, self-help or substance abuse treatment. There may also be opportunities for you to work while you are in prison. When you go to Committee, ask if you can participate in one (or more) of these programs.
- Meet with Parole Planning and Placement (PPP) staff to create a personalized case plan with a list of goals and resources that will help you be successful after you are released from prison. During your meeting, let PPP staff know if you need a place to live after you are released. If you are eligible, PPP will immediately begin the process to get you into a CDCR-funded program. There are many programs available, and PPP will help you find one that is right for you. In addition, PPP will also make sure that you have transportation to the program when you are released from prison. PPP will contact you about 210 days prior to your release date to schedule this meeting. Your correctional counselor can provide you with a form to contact PPP if your needs change after your meeting with them. Please be aware that PPP will not meet with you if you are being released to Post Release Community Supervision.
- Participate in a re-entry class at your prison. Re-entry classes can help you learn what to expect after you are released from prison. If you are eligible for the Parole Re-entry Class, PPP will schedule you to attend 120-30 days before you are released from prison. Ask your correctional counselor if there are any other re-entry classes at your prison.
- If you have not finished high school, take the test for your GED.
- Apply for a California Identification Card through the Cal-ID program at your prison. If you are eligible, your correctional counselor will help you complete the paperwork 210-120 days before you are released from prison.
- If you do not already have one, you may be able to apply for a Social Security Card while you are in prison. Ask your correctional counselor for more information.
- If you are disabled, ask your correctional counselor about applying for Supplemental Security Income.
- If you use or need a hearing aid, a wheelchair, a cane, or something else like that, make sure to ask for one before you are released to parole. Ask the doctor at your prison to fix or replace it if it is not working. If you need help getting it fixed or getting a new one when you get out, ask your parole agent.
- Keep in touch with your family, friends, and people you used to work for.
THINGS YOU MUST DO WHEN YOU GET OUT OF PRISON
The privilege of parole comes with a lot of responsibility. You will want to make sure that you start out on the right foot by following all of the directions that you are given upon your release from prison, including the following:
- You will be required to report to your assigned parole office on the first business day following your release, unless otherwise instructed. If you have any difficulty following your reporting instructions, call the parole office collect immediately. If you cannot get a hold of your parole agent or the Officer of the Day, contact the closest parole office you can find and ask them for help. Remember, it is your responsibility to report.
- If you are contacted by law enforcement for any reason, tell the officer you are on parole and inform your parole agent as soon as you can.
- You will be given gate money when you leave the prison. Do not waste this money. Gate money should be used for needs like food, a room, and travel. If you get released to a hold, you will not get your gate money until that hold is cleared, and you are again released. Talk to your parole agent about your gate money if this happens.
- Register with the local police department or sheriff’s office, if you have been instructed to do so.
- If someone commits a crime against you, tell a police officer and your parole agent what happened.
AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT
If it is hard for you to see, hear, talk, walk, move, breathe or learn, you may have a disability. If you have medical or mental problems, you may have a disability. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) says you cannot be left out of anything because of a disability. There are two types of disabilities: 1) Permanent Disability – A disability that will not likely get better in the next six months, and 2) Temporary Disability – Something like a broken leg or a minor operation, which will heal in time.
While you are on parole, if you think you have a qualifying ADA disability and are having a hard time with something that you have to do, ask for help by talking to your parole agent. If you need additional help, your parole agent will give you a form that can be used to request a reasonable accommodation. You can also use this form to complain if you are unhappy with the help you receive. When you are done filling out the form, send it to the Appeals Coordinator at your Regional Headquarters. If you need help filling out the form, ask your parole agent.
If you are housed in county jail following the placement of a parole hold, you will be visited by a parole agent who will explain the charges you face. If you feel that you need a reasonable accommodation while you are in jail, the parole agent can help you complete a form that will give you a chance to describe any disabilities that you have or ask for help with things like communication, housing needs or medical concerns. The parole agent will answer any questions you may have. You can use the county jail grievance process at any time you feel your needs are not being met.
DEFINITIONS FOR IMPORTANT PAROLE TERMS
- Conditions of Parole – Written rules that you have to follow.
- Special Conditions – Additional written rules that you have to follow.
- Commitment Offense – Why you went to prison.
- Discharge – When you are off parole.
- Parole Period – The time you have to spend on parole.
- Residence – Where you really live.
- Parolee-at-Large – Someone who is “running” from parole and cannot be found.
- Violation – Any law you break or condition of parole you do not follow.
- Parole Hold – The law that lets a parole agent put you in custody if you violate your parole.
- Revocation – When a judge with the Superior Courts, or a Deputy Commissioner with the Board of Parole Hearings (BPH), places you in custody for violating parole.
- Board of Parole Hearings – The BPH decides if you will go back to prison if you are on parole with a “life-term” sentence and you violate. They also decide if you will stay on parole at the time of your discharge review.
- Parole Agent/Agent – A peace officer who is in charge of supervising parolees released from prison.
WHAT YOUR CONDITIONS OF PAROLE MEAN
Your conditions of parole are very important. They let you know what is expected of you while you are on parole. You must follow your conditions of parole to stay out of jail or prison and finish your parole term.
If you have trouble understanding your conditions of parole, you can ask your correctional counselor or parole agent to explain them to you. You can also request the aid of an interpreter or magnifying glass if you have difficulty reading your conditions of parole due to a language or print-size barrier. Your conditions of parole will include the following information and instructions:
- Your release date and parole term (how long you might be on parole).
- You, the home you live in and your belongings can be searched at any time. Searches do not require a warrant or consent (permission), and can be performed by a parole agent or any law enforcement officer.
- When you sign your parole conditions, you are agreeing to come back to California if you leave the State.
- If you need mental treatment, and are a danger to yourself or others, you can be put in a treatment center or returned to prison.
- If another agency has a hold on you, you may get picked up by that agency. If this happens, you must get a hold of your parole agent as soon as possible.
- You must always tell your parole agent where you are living and working.
- You must always report to your parole agent the first business day following your release from prison, unless otherwise instructed.
- You must tell your parole agent what your new address is before you move there.
- You must tell your parole agent about any changes to your job within three days, including work address changes.
- If you do not report to your parole agent when you are told, a warrant can be issued for your arrest.
- You must follow your parole agent’s instructions.
- You must ask your parole agent for permission before you travel more than 50 miles from your home.
- Your parole agent must give you a travel permit before you leave the county for more than two days.
- Your parole agent must give you a travel permit before you can leave the State.
- You must obey all laws.
- You must tell your parole agent right away if you have contact with any law-enforcement officer for any reason.
- If you break the law, you can be sent back to jail or prison.
- You cannot be around guns, bullets, or weapons of any kind. This includes things that look like guns or weapons, even if they are not.
- You may not have a knife with a blade longer than two inches, unless it is a kitchen knife or a knife you use for work. However, kitchen knives must be kept in your kitchen. Work knives must be approved by your parole agent. If approved, your parole agent will give you a note that grants you permission to possess knives for work while you are at, or traveling to or from, work. You must carry this note with you any time you have your work knives. If you do not, you could go to jail.
- You cannot own, nor have access to, any weapon as defined in state or federal statutes, or any instrument or device which a reasonable person would believe to be capable of being used as a weapon.
- You should sign your conditions of parole. If you do not sign them, you are telling your parole agent that you do not want to follow your conditions of parole. If you do not follow your conditions of parole, you could be sent back to jail or prison.
These are orders from the court telling a person to stay away from another person. If the person does not do what the order says, they can be arrested.
If you are the victim of a crime of any kind, call the police. This includes physical threats that are made against you, including any violation of a restraining order. The police will take appropriate action and will do everything that they can to ensure your safety and well-being.
THREE STRIKES, YOU’RE OUT NOTIFICATION
California’s “Three Strikes” law was originally signed into law on March 7, 1994. On November 6, 2012, voters passed the “Three Strikes Reform Act of 2012” (Proposition 36). The “Three Strikes” law applies to anyone who has one or more prior serious or violent felony conviction(s). These convictions are called “strikes.” There are mandatory sentences in “Three Strikes” cases. These mandatory sentences are:
- Mandatory Doubled Sentence – If you already have one or more strikes, your time for a new serious or violent felony conviction will be doubled.
- Mandatory Life Sentence – If you already have two or more strikes, your time for a new serious or violent felony conviction will be a minimum of 25 years to life in prison.
- Mandatory State Prison – If you already have one or more strikes, the judge will sentence you to State prison for each new serious or violent felony conviction. There will be no possibility that you could be sentenced to county jail or a Juvenile Justice facility.
- Mandatory Consecutive Sentences – All time for new serious or violent felony convictions must be served, one after the other. The time cannot run at the same time. The maximum amount of “good time” credit you are allowed to receive is 20 percent. You will have to serve at least 80 percent of your new sentence before you may be paroled.
“Three Strikes” Questions and Answers
Q: What crimes are “strikes?”
A: A list of serious and violent crimes that are “strikes” can be found in Penal Code Sections 667.5(c), 1192.7(c) and 1192.8.
Q: Do earlier serious or violent convictions that happened before March 7, 1994 count as a “strike?”
A: Yes. Prior serious or violent felony convictions that happened before March 7, 1994 are counted as “strikes.”
Q: How long do earlier convictions count as “strikes?” – Forever. There is no washout period under “Three Strikes.”
Q: Is an earlier serious or violent felony conviction counted as a “strike,” even if it happened in another state or in the federal courts?
A: Yes. Out-of-State and federal convictions for serious or violent felonies are counted as “strikes.”
Q: Is an earlier serious or violent felony conviction a “strike,” even if you didn’t go to prison for that conviction?
A: Yes. All adult convictions for a serious or violent felony will count as a “strike,” no matter what the sentence was.
Q: Do juvenile cases count as “strikes?”
A: Maybe. Under certain circumstances, a juvenile case of a serious or violent felony may count as a “strike” under “Three Strikes” law.
FINDING FOOD AND SHELTER
There may be local groups or agencies in your area that provide food, shelter or other services. The following are suggestions for ways that you may be able to get these services:
Most communities have several organizations that are dedicated to helping people who are homeless and/or in need of a meal. While the organizations from one community to the next may be known by different names, the organization types are often the same. Examples of these organizations include local missions, live-in programs (with or without substance abuse treatment) and emergency housing. Your parole agent will be able to help you identify the organizations like these in your area.
Some parole offices work closely with local boarding houses, motels and other short-term housing providers. Ask your parole agent if opportunities like these are available in your area.
United States Department of Veterans Affairs
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers help to veterans who are facing the threat of homelessness, or are already homeless. The VA may be able to help you with temporary and permanent housing solutions. If you served in the military, contact the VA for more information.
California Department of Social Services
The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) offers many programs that can assist you with food. Some examples include the CalFresh, Emergency Food Assistance and Drought Food Assistance Programs.
FINDING A JOB
Getting a job should be one of your top priorities if you are capable of working. Though it may be a challenge to find work, you should never allow yourself to become discouraged. If you need assistance finding and keeping a job, the following information may be helpful to you:
California Employment Development Department
The Employment Development Department (EDD) can help you find a job. They have many tools that can assist you in the process, such as job fairs, workshops and online services. In addition, employers may be able to get a tax credit for hiring you through the Work Opportunity Tax Credit Program.
The public library in your area may offer various types of programs that can help you with employment. Some of the services you may find at your local library include business services, which can help you if you are interested in starting your own business, or one-on-one job coaching to help you brush up on job searching, resume writing and interview skills.
Community colleges offer several
programs that can provide you with vocational training in fields like
auto-repair, computers, carpentry and plumbing. In some cases, you may be able to enroll in these programs even if you don’t have a high school diploma.
Employment agencies are companies that specialize in connecting employers with job-seekers. The jobs they can place you in may be temporary, or lead to a permanent position. An employment agency can help you figure out what type of work you are qualified to do and then help you find a job.
Help Wanted Advertisements
Help Wanted ads can be searched online and in the newspaper, or other publications. If you don’t know where to find them, ask your parole agent.
Networking can be an effective way of finding a job. Talk to your parole agent, friends and family and ask them if they are aware of any job opportunities that you might be qualified for. Ask them for advice on how to get a job. They may point you in the right direction.
Cold-calling is an option that is available to you in your job search. You may be able to get work by simply calling or stopping in on a company that you would like to work for and asking them if they are hiring. This may be especially effective on construction worksites.
Tips for Finding a Job
- Prepare a history of your work experience. This is called a resume.
- Prepare a list of references. This is a list of people a potential employer can contact to ask about your character and experience. Make sure that your relationships with others, especially employers, are good so that you will always feel comfortable listing them as a reference.
- Obtain a valid California Driver’s License or California Identification Card. Employers will require you to have a valid ID. If you did not obtain an ID while you were in prison, ask your parole agent if you are eligible for a no-fee or reduced-fee ID.
- Know your Social Security Number. Employers will require this information. If you do not have a Social Security Number, apply to obtain one.
- Keep a copy of your birth certificate. If you do not have one, contact the County Records Office where you were born to obtain a copy.
- Dress appropriately when meeting with potential employers. In most cases, this means that you should wear your “Sunday best.”
- When you are interviewing for a job, be the best version of yourself. Listen carefully, be respectful and answer all questions honestly and to the best of your ability.
GETTING AN EDUCATION
If you did not graduate from high school, you may have a hard time getting a good job. If you want a good job, you can still finish your education through an Adult Education Program. You can get your General Education Development (GED) diploma by taking the High School Proficiency Test, or by going back to school.
Adult Education Program
Adult Education Programs are free of charge and are available in schools in your community. You can get more information about these programs by contacting your local school district or community college.
Adult Learning Services
Your local library may offer free adult learning services like help getting ready to take the GED exam, or learning to become a better reader. Some libraries also offer tutoring. These services may be available onsite or online. Contact your local library for more information.
MENTAL HEALTH AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE COUNSELING
Life can be challenging. There may be times that you could really use someone to talk to about the things that are troubling you. Whether your challenges are with how you are feeling or substance abuse problems, you can always find someone to help you.
Parole Outpatient Clinic
Parole Outpatient Clinics (POC) can be found in every parole district. A POC has psychologists, psychiatrists, and social workers who can help you with many mental health services, including counseling and medication. If you have trouble communicating with staff at the POC, you can ask them, or your parole agent, to provide you with a form to request additional help.
Based on a lot of different things, your parole agent may require you to attend a POC. You may also be required to attend parenting or domestic violence classes.
California Department of Developmental Services
The California Department of Developmental Services (DDS) provides services and support to individuals with developmental disabilities that began before the person’s eighteenth birthday. Examples of developmental disabilities include intellectual disability, Cerebral Palsy, Autism and Epilepsy. Among the many services DDS offers are counseling and family support. Contact DDS if you think you have a developmental disability.
United States Department of Health and Human Services
The Department of Health and Human Services in your county will have mental health offices that offer counseling. Counseling is available through self-referral, parole agent referral and in times of crisis.
Narcotics and Alcoholics Anonymous
Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) groups meet every day in different locations. These groups have help and support for people with drug or alcohol problems. They will help you stay clean and sober. These groups also offer support to family and friends of alcohol and drug abusers through a program called Al-Anon. You can find NA/AA and Al-Anon groups in your area in the phone book or online. You can also ask your parole agent about them.
If you think you have a drug or alcohol problem, contact a program immediately.
The parole office has more information on substance abuse programs. Ask your parole agent about one that is right for you.
KNOW YOUR BENEFITS
There are several types of benefits that may be available to you when you are released from prison. Some of the most important benefits that you may need include housing, unemployment, disability, financial and medical. This part of the handbook will tell you about some of the places you can contact to apply for these types of benefits. It is important to remember that you are not entitled to benefits just because you are on parole. If you have trouble finding the benefits you need, you can ask your parole agent to help you.
The California Department of Developmental Services (DDS) provides services and support to individuals with developmental disabilities. Examples of developmental disabilities include intellectual disability, Cerebral Palsy, Autism and Epilepsy. Among the many services DDS offers are help with housing and in-home support services. Contact DDS if you think you have a developmental disability.
UNEMPLOYMENT AND DISABILITY
The California Employment Development Department (EDD) can help you with unemployment benefits or State Disability Insurance if you meet the requirements for them.
The California Department of Rehabilitation is an employment resource for people with disabilities. They offer employment counseling and will help you search for and get a job. They may also be able to help you with transportation to and from work.
The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) and the California Department of Human Services offer General Assistance (GA) and General Relief (GR) programs to individuals who cannot support themselves and do not already receive public funds or assistance. Many people who receive GA or GR can also get help getting healthy foods through the CalFresh program.
CDSS also offers many other programs that you may be able to get that can help you with your financial needs. Examples of some of these programs are the California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKS), Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).
You may be able to get financial assistance or a loan from the parole office. Your parole agent can provide you with more information about whether you qualify and how to ask for this help.
You may be able to get Social Security retirement, survivors, or disability benefits. You cannot get Social Security benefits if you are in jail or prison for more than 30 days. If you lose your benefits while you are in jail or prison, it may be possible for you to apply to have your benefits restored 90 days before you are scheduled for release. You can apply for Social Security benefits if:
- You have worked and paid into Social Security for enough years.
- You are no longer working, and you are age 65 or older.
If your application was denied for medical reasons, you can request an appeal on the Social Security Administration’s website. If your application was denied for any other reason, you can appeal by calling the Social Security Administration.
SUPPLEMENTAL SECURITY INCOME
You may be able to get Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. You cannot get SSI benefits if you are in jail or prison for more than 30 days. If you lose your benefits while you are in jail or prison, it may be possible for you to apply to have your benefits restored 90 days before you are scheduled for release. You can apply for SSI if:
- You are age 65 or older.
- You are blind.
- You have a disability and have little or no income and resources (go online or ask a representative of the Social Security Administration about what qualifies as a disability).
If you get turned down for Supplemental Security Income, you can appeal. If your application was denied for medical reasons, you can request an appeal on the Social Security Administration’s website. If your application was denied for any other reason, you can appeal by calling the Social Security Administration.
AFFORDABLE CARE ACT
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) makes healthcare coverage available to all Americans. Under the ACA, you will be required to provide proof that you are enrolled in a health insurance plan that provides the “minimum essential coverage.” If you, or your dependents, are not, you may be required to pay a fee. In the State of California, ACA healthcare coverage is available through the Medi-Cal and Covered California programs. See “Medi-Cal” (p.24) and “Covered California” (p.24) for details.
Medi-Cal offers free or low-cost health coverage to adults, families with children, seniors, people with disabilities, children in foster care, including former foster youth up to the age of 26, and pregnant women. If you applied for Medi-Cal through the Transitional Case Management Program (TCMP) while you were in prison, you will need to follow-up on your benefits at your local county welfare office as instructed by the TCMP. If you would like to apply for Medi-Cal, contact your local county welfare office or go to the Covered California website.
Covered California is free or low-cost health coverage for children and adults with limited income and resources or disabilities. All Californians are welcome to apply at the Covered California website or through the local county welfare office.
Medicare is a health insurance program. Medicare helps with the cost of health care, but does not cover all medical expenses. You can apply for Medicare if:
- You are age 65 or older.
- You are under the age of 65 and have a disability or permanent kidney failure.
EMERGENCY MEDICAL SERVICES
If you experience a medical emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest hospital emergency room. You will receive the care you need, even if you don’t have insurance and can’t afford to pay for it.
DIVISION OF ADULT PAROLE OPERATIONS
Parole offers several types of cost-free programs that can help you with employment, education, housing or substance abuse. Your parole agent will know if these programs are available in your area and will be able to refer you to them if they are. Examples include:
Parole and Community Team
The Parole and Community Team (PACT) orientation meeting will introduce you to representatives from local law enforcement agencies and community service providers who will be able to help you plan for success and get many of the services you need. If it is available in your area, you will be instructed to attend the PACT meeting shortly after you are released from prison.
Parolee Employment Program
The Parolee Employment Program (PEP) provides job services to parolees. The goal of the PEP is to get parolees a good paying job so they can support themselves. PEP is not available in all parole offices. Ask your parole agent if it is available in your area.
Offender Employment Continuum Program
The Offender Employment Continuum Program (OEC) is a 40-hour employment workshop for individuals who are job-ready and can help you prepare for, find and keep a job. This program includes a 180 day follow-up to see how you are doing. Check with your parole agent to see if OEC is available in your area. The OEC may also be available in some prisons for eligible inmates. Ask your correctional counselor if OEC is available at your prison.
DIVISION OF REHABILITATIVE PROGRAMS
Substance Abuse Service Coordination Agency
The Substance Abuse Service Coordination Agency (SASCA) can help you with drug and alcohol treatment once you are released to parole. SASCA helps both male and female parolees who finish a qualifying prison substance abuse program. The kinds of substance abuse services that you can get from SASCA include:
- Substance Abuse Assessment
- Detoxification Services
- One-on-one, group or family counseling
- Residential and Outpatient Treatment
- Alcohol and Drug-Free Housing
Computerized Literacy Learning Center
The Computerized Literacy Learning Center (CLLC), or Literacy Lab, can be found at many parole offices and several Day Reporting Centers throughout California. The Literacy Lab is a literacy program that will help you get better at reading and math. When you go into the program, you will be tested using a computer to see if you have any problems with math or reading. A personalized plan will be made to help you fix any problems that are found.
Residential Multi-Service Center
The Residential Multi-Service Center (RMSC) can help you with substance abuse treatment, housing, food and life skills. The RMSC program lasts for 6 to 12 months and offers 90 days of aftercare. Your parole agent can tell you if there is a RMSC near you.
Substance Abuse Treatment and Recovery Program
The Substance Abuse Treatment and Recovery (STAR) Program is a four week education-based program that will help teach you how to stay clean if you have had drug or alcohol problems. Talk to your parole agent to find out if the STAR Program is available in your area.
Specialized Treatment for Optimized Programming
Specialized Treatment for Optimized Programming (STOP) staff offer proven programs that will help you with your transition back into the community. These programs assist you with your health care, education, life skills, employment, housing, counseling and substance abuse treatment needs. Priority will be given to parolees who meet specific criteria. Ask your parole agent if you qualify.
Day Reporting Centers
Day Reporting Centers (DRC) can help you with life-skills, education and employment training. They also offer some short-term housing.
Female Offender Treatment and Employment Program
The Female Offender Treatment and Employment Program (FOTEP) can assist female offenders with their transition from prison to the community. Services include shelter for female offenders and their children, substance abuse treatment, vocational training and employment services.
Parolee Service Center
The Parolee Service Center (PSC) is a voluntary program that provides housing, employment, substance abuse, stress management, victim awareness, education and life skills services. The PSC may be able to provide you with no-cost housing so that you can save up to 75 percent of your take-home pay after you have gotten a job.