A person who commits and is convicted of a crime always has a penalty to pay whether it is jail time, fines, or even time in prison. One of the ways society has deemed a proper payment for a crime is incarceration of the criminal, this means spending a certain amount of time behind bars. Provided an inmate follows the rules during their incarceration by remaining on "good behavior" and meets all rehabilitation requirements, they may be able to get an early release and finish their due time on parole. However, parole is a privilege, not a right. Prisoners may be refused parole the first time they apply and some prisoners are not eligible for parole due to the crime they committed.

Here are some basic factors for an offender to be eligible for parole. The exact criteria for parole varies from state to state.

  1. The first would be how much time they have served, which is usually at least one-third of the sentence, and the prisoner's age. If their behavior has been acceptable during their incarceration it will look very positive toward receiving parole.
  2. Secondly, if they have actively sought out programs in which to participate to help them not commit the same acts that put them there and have participated appropriately and to the best of their ability is also looked upon favorably. Programs may include: GED programs, Alcoholics Anonymous and vocational training.
  3. Additionally, there will be interviews conducted with officers, health care professionals, and mental health professionals. The parole board expects a prisoner to take responsibility for their crime.
  4. Lastly, the most important factor the parole board will consider is the likelihood that the inmate will participate in criminal behavior again. For instance the most dangerous offenders, such as those convicted of a sexual offense, it is very difficult, and unlikely, to be granted parole even if they are eligible.

Parole is only offered to an inmate after they have served either part or all of their sentence, and are eligible. It is similar to probation in that the inmate can live and work in his or her own community. Once they finish with their parole, they have completed their sentence in its entirety. If they should break (violate) the terms of their parole, they are typically given the chance to challenge the accusation. For example, if the parolee leaves the state. However, if they violate parole terms such as are found with concealed weapons, illegal drugs or are arrested, they will most likely be sent back to prison to serve the remainder of their original sentence.