(Information provided by Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections, Crime Victims Services Bureau. Current hearing dockets and additional information available from the Corrections website.)
How is an inmate released before his/her full prison term is served?
Most inmates are released by parole or diminution of sentence to parole supervision.
What is Parole?
Parole is conditional release from prison by action of the Parole Board. Inmates cannot be released on parole until the board announces and holds a hearing which is open to the public.
Parole-eligible inmates do not apply for an initial parole hearing; board staff schedule them automatically. (Requests for rehearings are initiated by inmates and may be denied by the board.)
Parole hearings are held about a month before an inmate's parole eligibility date (the date on which law allows release on parole.)
Laws and policy require notice to victims and certain other persons and agencies at least 30 days before the hearing date. Inmates granted parole must agree to and follow a list of conditions.
Failure to follow the rules may result in return to prison. Inmates are monitored by a parole officer until their "full term date," the date on which the full term imposed by the court is completed.
What is Diminution of Sentence?
Diminution of sentence release is conditional release from prison based on accrual of "good time" credits.
Laws passed by the legislature enable som inmates to shorten time in prison by positive actions while there. (Inmates can also lose such "good time" credit by breaking the rules or laws, thereby extending their time in prison.)
When an inmate's diminution of sentance date arrives, the department must release the inmate from prison to the community to be supervised "as if on parole." There is no hearing, but the inmate is supervised by a parole officer until his/her full term date.
Can inmates be released in other ways?
Yes, they can. For example, they can be released by court order or at full term or on good time without supervision. Contact the Crime Victim Services Bureau for additional information.
How long must inmates serve in prison before being released on parole?
Inmates sentenced to a fixed number of years for a crime of violence committed on or after 1/1/97 must serve at least 85% of the time imposed before they can be released on parole or diminution of sentence.
Most inmates sentenced for crimes committed before 1/1/97 AND inmates sentenced for crimes other than crimes of violence committed after that date are eligible for release as explained below:
A parole-eligible first offender can be released on parole after serving one-third of the sentence imposed by the court.
A parole eligible second offender can be released on parole after serving one-half of the sentence imposed by the court.
Inmates classified as third offenders or greater are not eligible for parole.
An inmate who is sentenced to 30 years or more in prison, serves 20 years in actual custody, and has reached age 45 is eligible for parole consideration. (This law does NOT apply if the inmate is under sentence of life or death or has committed a crime of violence on or after 1/1/97.)
If an inmate is eligible to earn good time credit toward diminution of sentence release, his earliest eligibility for release will come after he serves about one-half of the sentence.
Inmates sentenced to life in prison cannot be paroled or released on diminution of sentence unless the sentence is commuted. (See section re. Board of Pardons)
Who monitors inmates released on parole?
The Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections, Division of Probation and Parole has officers in the Division's 20 district offices who are responsible for the supervision of inmates released on parole and diminuition of sentence and those placed on felony probation. Probation and parole officers supervise payment of restitution and prepare reports for decision-makers (including the Courts and Parole and Pardon Boards). Officers interview victims for many of those reports and include victims's statements about up-coming parole hearings. Officers have the authority to arrest probationers and parolees with or without a warrant.
Inmates released from incarceration to supervision have 48 hours to report to a district office.
Persons on supervision must have permission to leave the boundaries of the supervising district.
One way victims can make sure that probation and parole officers can contact them is to register and maintain a current mailing address and telephone number with the Crime Victims Services Bureau.
Can the Board of Pardons influence an inmate's release?
The Board of Pardons handles inmate requests for clemency--that is, for pardon, commutation, and restoration of rights lost as a result of a criminal conviction. Access to a hearing before the Board of Pardons is provided by the state's constitution. A court cannot make an inmate ineligible for consideration by the Board of Pardons; however, state statutes do impose restrictions on how soon after sentencing inmates may apply for commutation.
Commutation is the only non-judicial means by which a life sentence can be changed to a specified number of years. Only then is it possible for an inmate to be released from prison by virtue of parole or diminution of sentence. Many applications to the board request commutation of sentence--that is, a shorter sentence than the one imposed by the court.
An inmate cannot be recommended for commutation of sentence until the board announces and holds a hearing
Law and policy require notice to victims and other persons and agencies at least 30 days before an inmate's hearing.
Commutation requests approved by the board are sent to the Governor, who makes the final decision to grant or deny the board's recommendation.
What about juveniles?
Youth assigned to secure care are given determinate sentences by their committing court and can earn a recommendation for early release, unless adjudicated for first or second degree murder, aggravated rape, aggravated kidnapping, or treason. Committment for these offenses requires placement in a secure facility until the age of 21. Youths committed for armed robbery must be placed in a secure facility for the full term imposed by the court.