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Parole may have different meanings depending on the field and judiciary system. All of the meanings originated from the French parole, meaning "(spoken) word". Following its use in late-medieval Anglo-French chivalric practice, the term became associated with the release of prisoners based on prisoners giving their word of honor to abide by certain restrictions.

Criminal justice[]

In criminal justice systems, parole is the supervised release of a prisoner before the completion of his/her sentence. This differs from amnesty or commutation of sentence in that parolees are still considered to be serving their sentences, and may be returned to prison if they violate the conditions of their parole. In nearly all cases, conditions of parole include obeying the law, obtaining some form of employment, and maintaining some contact with a parole officer.

Early history of parole[]

Alexander Maconochie, a Scottish geographer and captain in the British Royal Navy, introduced the modern idea of parole when, in 1840, he was appointed superintedent of the English penal colonies in Norfolk Island, Australia. He developed a plan to prepare them for eventual return to society that involved three grades. The first two consisted of promotions earned through good behavior, labor, and study. The third grade in the system involved conditional liberty outside of prison while obeying rules. A violation would return them to prison and starting all over again through the ranks of the three grade process.[1]


In China, prisoners are often granted medical parole, which releases them on the grounds that they must receive medical treatment which cannot be provided for in prison. Often, the medical condition is not serious, and medical parole is used as an excuse to release a prisoner, particularly a political dissident, without the government having to admit that the sentence was unjust.[2][3]

The Chinese legal code has no explicit provision for exile, but often a dissident is released on the grounds that they need to be treated for a medical condition in another country, and with the understanding that they will be reincarcerated if they return to China. Dissidents who have been released on medical parole include Ngawang Chophel, Ngawang Sangdrol, Phuntsog Nyidron, Takna Jigme Zangpo, Wang Dan, Wei Jingsheng, Gao Zhan and Fang Lizhi. Exiling a dissident in most cases destroys them politically, as they are no longer seen as a martyr within China.


Main article: Libertà condizionata

Libertà condizionata is covered by Article 176 of the Italian Penal Code. A prisoner is eligible if he has served at least 30 months (or 26 years for life sentences), and the time remaining on his sentence is less than half the total (normally), a quarter of the total (if previously convicted), or five years (for sentences >7.5 years). 21 inmates were granted libertà condizionata in 2006.[How to reference and link to summary or text]

United States[]

Early history[]

Penologist Zebulon Brockway first introduced parole when he became superintendent of Elmira Reformatory in New York state. In order to manage prison populations and rehabilitate those incarcerated he instituted a two part strategy that consisted of indeterminate sentences and parole releases.[4]

Modern history[]

In the United States, courts may specify in a sentence how much time must be served before a prisoner is eligible for parole. This is often done by specifying an indeterminate sentence of, say, "15 to 25 years," or "15 years to life." The latter type is known as an indeterminate life sentence; in contrast, a sentence of "life without the possibility of parole" is known as a determinate life sentence.

In most states, the decision of whether an inmate is paroled is vested in a paroling authority such as a parole board. Mere good conduct while incarcerated in and of itself does not necessarily guarantee that an inmate will be paroled. Other factors may enter into the decision to grant or deny parole, most commonly the establishment of a permanent residence and immediate, gainful employment or some other clearly visible means of self-support upon release (such as Social Security if the prisoner is old enough to qualify). Many states now permit sentences of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole (such as for murder and espionage), and any prisoner not sentenced to either this or the death penalty will eventually have the right to petition for release (one state – Alaska – maintains neither the death penalty nor life imprisonment without parole as sentencing options). At the same time, most other nations, such as European nations and Mexico, have abolished life without the possibility of parole because it is considered cruel.

Before being granted the privilege of parole, the inmate must first agree to abide by the conditions of parole set by the paroling authority. These conditions usually require the parolee to meet regularly with his or her parole officer or community corrections agent, who assesses the behavior and adjustment of the parolee and determines whether the parolee is violating any of his or her terms of release (typically these include being at home during certain hours, maintaining steady employment, not absconding, refraining from illicit drug use and sometimes, abstaining from alcohol). In some cases, a parolee may be discharged from parole before the time called for in the original sentence if it is determined that the parole restrictions are no longer necessary for the protection of society (this most frequently occurs when elderly parolees are involved).

Service members who commit crimes while in the US military may be subject to Court Martial proceedings under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). If found guilty, they may be sent to Federal or Military Prisons and upon release may be supervised by U.S./Federal Probation Officers.

Parole is a controversial political topic in the United States. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, at least sixteen states have abolished parole entirely, and four more have abolished parole for certain violent offenders.[5] During elections, politicians whose administrations parole any large number of prisoners (or, perhaps, one notorious criminal) are typically attacked by their opponents as being "soft on crime". The US Department of Justice (DOJ) stated in 2005 that about 45% of parolees completed their sentences successfully, while 38% were returned to prison, and 11% absconded. These statistics, the DOJ says, are relatively unchanged since 1995; even so, some states (including New York) have abolished parole altogether for violent felons, and the federal government abolished it in 1984 for all offenders convicted of a federal crime, whether violent or not. Despite the decline in jurisdictions with a functioning parole system, the average annual growth of parolees was an increase of about 1.5% per year between 1995 and 2002.

The accused perpetrators of the infamous July 2007 Cheshire, Connecticut home invasion were convicted burglars paroled from Connecticut prisons. [1][2] The New York Daily News has called on parole to be abolished in the wake of this massacre [3] On September 21, 2007 Governor M. Jodi Rell announced a moratorium on the parole of violent offenders in the wake of the Cheshire massacre [4]

A variant of parole is known as "time off for good behavior," or, colloquially, "good time." Unlike the traditional form of parole – which may be granted or denied at the discretion of a parole board – time off for good behavior is automatic absent a certain number (or gravity) of infractions committed by a convict while incarcerated (in most jurisdictions the released inmate is placed under the supervision of a parole officer for a certain amount of time after being so released). In some cases "good time" can reduce the maximum sentence by as much as one-third. It is usually not made available to inmates serving life sentences, as there is no release date that can be moved up.

US immigration law[]

Main article: Parole (United States immigration)

In US immigration law, the term parole has three different meanings.

A person who does not meet the technical requirements for a visa may be allowed to enter the U.S. for humanitarian purposes. Persons who are allowed to enter the U.S. in this manner are known as parolees (the use is catachrestic, since as the individual gives his word rather than takes it, the term should be not "parolee" but "paroler") .

Another use related to immigration is advance parole, in which a person who already legally resides in the U.S. needs to leave temporarily and return without a visa. This typically occurs when a person's application for a green card (permanent residency) is in process and the person must leave the U.S. for emergency or business reasons. In the wake of September 11, 2001, there has been greater scrutiny of applications for advance parole. [5]

A person who goes out of the country on "advanced parole" has to go through the following process: Canada by road: US Immigration officers will require you to submit one parole document to them. They will stamp your passport and another parole document, and issue a new I-94 form.

The term is also used to denote scenarios in which the federal government orders the release of an alien inmate incarcerated in a state prison before that inmate's sentence has been completed, with the stipulation that the inmate be immediately deported, and never permitted to return to the United States. The most celebrated example of this form of parole was that of Lucky Luciano, who was being "rewarded" for cooperating with the war effort during World War II. In most cases where such parole is resorted to, however, the federal government has deemed that the need for the immediate deportation of the inmate outweighs the state's interest in meting out punishment for the crime the inmate committed.

Prisoners of war[]

Parole is "[t]he agreement of persons who have been taken prisoner by an enemy that they will not again take up arms against those who captured them, either for a limited time or during the continuance of the war."[6] The U.S. Department of Defense defines parole more broadly. "Parole agreements are promises given the captor by a POW to fulfill stated conditions, such as not to bear arms or not to escape, in consideration of special privileges, such as release from captivity or lessened restraint."[7]

The practice of paroling enemy troops began thousands of years ago, at least as early as the time of Carthage.[8] Hugo Grotius, an early international lawyer, favorably discussed prisoner of war parole.[9] During the American Civil War, both the Dix-Hill Cartel and the Lieber Code set out rules regarding prisoner of war parole.[10] Francis Lieber's thoughts on parole later reappeared in the Declaration of Brussels of 1874, the Hague Convention, and the Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War.[11]

In the United States, current policy prohibits prisoners of war from accepting parole. The Code of Conduct for the U.S. Armed Forces states: "I will accept neither parole nor special favors from the enemy."[12] This position is reiterated by the Department of Defense. "The United States does not authorize any Military Service member to sign or enter into any such parole agreement."[13]


Main article: Linguistic performance

Parole (French, meaning "speech") is also a linguistic term used by Ferdinand de Saussure which, as opposed to langue, describes language in use rather than language as a system. Parole is a dynamic, social activity in a particular time and space.

See also[]


  2. China Grants Convicted Scholars Medical Parole. The Chronicle of Higher Education. URL accessed on 2008-01-13.
  3. US lawmakers demand China grant dissident medical parole. Agence France-Presse via MyWire. URL accessed on 2008-01-13.
  5. [,0,1199416.story "Parole system in transition assailed as unfair"]. Newsday, May 2, 2007.
  6. 2 Bouvier's Law Dictionary 2459 (1914).
  7. U.S. Department of Defense Directive 1300.7, Training and Education Measures Necessary to Support the Code of Conduct (23 Dec 88).
  8. Herbert C. Fooks, Prisoners of War 297 (1924).
  9. Hugo Grotius, De Jure Belli ac Pacis (1625), reprinted in 2 Classics of International Law 853-54 (J. Scott ed. 1925).
  10. James M. McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom 791 (1988); U.S. Army General Orders No. 100 (24 April 1863), reprinted in R.S. Hartigan, Lieber's Code and the Law of War 45-71 (1983).
  11. Annex to Hague Convention IV Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land, Art. 10 (1907) and Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, Art. 21 (1949), both reprinted in Documents on the Laws of War 216 (A. Roberts & R. Guelff ed. 1982).
  12. Code of Conduct for Members of the Armed Forces of the United States, Exec. Order No. 10,631, 20 Fed. Reg. 6057, 3 C.F.R. 1954-58 Comp. 266 (1955), as amended by Exec. Order No. 12,017, 42 Fed. Reg. 57941 (1977); and Exec. Order No. 12,633, 53 Fed. Reg. 10355 (1988).
  13. DoD Directive 1300.7, Enclosure 2, Para. B3a(5).

External links[]

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