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States Where Parole Boards Have the Most Power

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Did you know that, in most states, a parole board decides whether a prisoner is released before serving their maximum sentence? And did you also know that, in many states, parole board members are not required to have any experience with the criminal justice system?

Parole can seem like one big gray area, made even more confusing and convoluted because the rules differ by state. In Ohio, parole boards are said to have “very limited” authority when it comes to early release of prisoners. Turns out, this might be a good thing.

The states where parole boards have the most power include: Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Michigan, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Nevada, Wyoming, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Colorado, Nebraska, Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, West Virginia, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, Alaska, Hawaii, and Texas.

The most authoritative parole boards can decide:

  • Which prisoners can be released from prison before serving the maximum length of their sentence, and which must remain imprisoned;
  • How long an inmate must wait before review by the parole board;
  • What type of conduct can increase (or decrease) a prisoner’s chances of being released on parole; and
  • The terms of parole.

Once an individual is convicted, sentenced, and becomes an inmate, they no longer have due process rights when it comes to parole, leaving them in a legal limbo. These inmates are eligible for parole, but most have no idea what they can do to earn it, and minimal rights if they are “wrongfully denied” parole, which is difficult to prove.

The older an inmate gets, the statistically less likely they are to be released on parole. Older inmates are not only less likely to reoffend, but they are also the most expensive to keep in prison. Despite this, our nation’s oldest prisoners are the least likely to be released on parole. This may be due, at least in part, to the public chastisement parole board members face upon releasing violent offenders.

About Ohio Parole Boards

In Ohio, parole boards can consist of up to 12 members. Ohio requires the Director of the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (or “DRC”) to appoint these members. Unlike many states, Ohio requires all parole board members to have criminal justice experience –

The members are appointed by the Director of the DRC, and must be qualified by education or experience in correctional work, including law enforcement, prosecution of offenses, advocating for the rights of victims of crime, probation or parole, in law, in social work, or in a combination of the three categories.

Ohio parole board members are also subject to term limits. Each member may only serve up to two separate six-year terms. Ohio also appoints hearing officers, individuals who oversee and assess parole hearings. To learn more about Ohio’s current parole board members, visit the DRC online. Visit Chapter 5120:1-1 of the Ohio Administrative Code to learn more about how parole works in Ohio.