The Parole Process
Public Comment Sessions
The Prisoner Review Board conducts monthly Public Comment Sessions in the cities of Derby, Topeka and Kansas City. The sessions provide an opportunity for Board members to receive written and oral input from victims, victims’ families, inmates’ families, community members and other interested persons regarding the possible parole of inmates. Notice of the Public Comment Sessions and a list of relevant inmates are available at: Public Comment Sessions.
Inmates under the indeterminate sentencing structure become parole eligible after serving the minimum sentence, less good time credits. The good time credits are calculated according to statute. Currently, good time is earned at a rate of one day for every day served for sentences with a minimum of two years. In other words, an individual will become eligible at half of his/her minimum sentence if all good time is earned. For sentences with a one-year minimum, parole eligibility is reached after serving nine months.
The Parole Hearing
By statute, the Board must conduct a parole hearing during the month prior to the inmate’s parole eligibility date with the inmate present if he/she is incarcerated in Kansas. This appearance does not necessarily mean that the inmate will be released on parole. Parole eligibility is viewed by the Board as distinctly different from parole suitability.
During the parole hearing the inmate is given an opportunity to:
Present to the Board the inmate’s version of the offense and any mitigating or precipitating factors;
Discuss the inmate’s prior criminal history;
Discuss the progress the inmate has made and the programs that have been completed, including those that are a part of the inmate’s Program Agreement;
Discuss the precipitating or mitigating factors of any Disciplinary Reports the inmate has received while incarcerated;
Discuss the inmate’s problems and needs;
Present and discuss a parole plan;
Discuss other matters that are pertinent to consideration of parole release;
Present other reasons the inmate believes makes him/her ready for parole.
Parole hearings provide the Board an opportunity to review all available reports and material pertinent to the case, as well as to question the inmate directly about relevant issues and to make an assessment of the inmate and his/her readiness for parole.
The Parole Decision-Making Process
Kansas Law stipulates that the Board may release on parole those inmates who have satisfactorily completed the Program Agreement, required by the K.S.A. 75-5210a, whom the Board believes are able and willing to fulfill the obligations of a law-abiding citizen, and when the Board is of the opinion that there is a reasonable probability that the inmate can be released without detriment to the community or to the inmate. (K.S.A. 22-3717 (e)).
In conjuction with K.S.A. 22-3717 (h), the following non-exhaustive factors are considered when determining parole suitability:
Circumstances of the offense
Previous criminal record and social history of the inmate
Programs and program participation
Conduct, employment, attitude, disciplinary history during incarceration
Reports of physical/mental examinations, including but not limited to risk factors revealed by any risk assessment
Comments from public officials, victims or their family, offender family or friends, or any other interested member of the general public
Capacity of state correctional institutions
Input from staff where offender is housed
Proportionality of time served to the sentence that would have been received under the Kansas sentencing guidelines for the conduct that resulted in the inmate's incarceration
In addition to soliciting comments from violent crime victims, comments are solicited from public officials regarding the inmate’s possible parole. These officials include the Prosecuting Attorney, Sheriff’s Department, Police Department and the Sentencing Judge from the county or counties in which the inmate was convicted. This information is made available to the Board at the inmate’s hearing.
These considerations take into account the welfare of the community and public safety in determining the optimum period of time for parole release of an individual inmate. The parole decision is representative of the criminal justice system and governmental guidelines and is an attempt to reflect the general attitude and opinions of law enforcement and the community at large. Before granting parole, the Board determines whether or not an offender has demonstrated appropriate behavior which ensures a reasonable opportunity to succeed socially and economically. The Board takes into consideration the individuality of offenders on a case-by-case basis.
The Board can make one of three basic decisions at a parole hearing. These decisions are
The Board can decide to “parole” when it believes the inmate is suitable for release.
Secondly, the Parole Board can decide to “continue,” which is to postpone making a decision to parole or pass the inmate. This action is made to facilitate further deliberation or receipt of information, when it requires a more in-depth review or discussion of the case. The Board may also continue for additional votes necessary for a majority decision. Other times, it may continue for the inmates to undergo an evaluation to assess the inmate’s mental health. Once the reason for the continuation is satisfied, a determination as to whether or not to release the inmate is made.
The third decision is to “pass” for a particular period of time, which is a denial of parole. The maximum period for which the Prisoner Review Board may pass offenders convicted of A or B felonies or off-grid offenses is ten years, if the Board can provide reasons as to why it is not believed that the inmate would have been granted parole otherwise. Previously, offenders convicted of such offenses could only be passed for up to 3 years.
For offenders convicted of offenses other than A or B felonies or off-grid offenses, the Board may issue a pass for a period up to three years, provided the Board can give reasons as to why it is not believed that the inmate would have been granted parole otherwise. Previously, offenders convicted of such offenses could only be passed for up to one year.
An inmate has the right to appeal a parole decision under authority of K.A.R. 45-200-2(b), when he/she can present “new evidence which was unavailable at the prior hearing.” The appeal must be made in writing and specify the new evidence upon which the inmate relies. Those that meet the outlined criteria are reviewed by the Prisoner Review Board so that a decision can be made regarding the appeal. Once a decision has been reached, the offender is notified of the decision by the Board.
A conditional release is the date when an inmate under an indeterminate sentence must be released, because he/she has served half of the maximum sentence. Good time for conditional release is calculated in the same manner as for parole eligibility. Therefore, for sentences with a maximum of two years or more an inmate must serve one-half of the maximum before being conditionally released. For example, on a three-to-ten year sentence, an inmate will reach his/her conditional release after serving five years and must be released at that time, provided he/she has lost no good time. When an inmate reaches his/her conditional release, the Prisoner Review Board reviews the inmate’s file and establishes conditions with which the inmate must comply. The offender is then placed on conditional release and supervised until the maximum sentence date or granted an early discharge by the Board.
The Kansas Legislature imposed a Sentencing Guideline Sentencing structure for individuals whose crimes were committed on or after July 1, 1993. This system is determinate in nature, in that the inmate’s period of incarceration is predetermined at sentencing. Post-release supervision is similar to conditional release. Post-release supervision begins when an inmate has served the maximum sentence, less good time credits. Each sentence has its own predetermined period of supervision and the inmate may earn good time in an amount no greater than 15-20 percent (depending on when the crime occurred) of the sentence, thereby reducing the portion of the sentence that must be served in prison. This amount of time, however, will then be added to the period of post-release supervision, so that the entirety of the term will not be affected or reduced. Therefore, since the inmate’s release date is predetermined, the Prisoner Review Board’s role at release is to set the conditions of the supervision period. Once the individual reaches the expiration date of his/her supervision period, the individual’s obligation to the state has been satisfied.
Parole, Conditional Release, and Post-Release Revocation Hearings
In general, after an inmate has been released on parole, conditional release or post-release supervision, the Secretary of Corrections may issue a warrant when a violation of parole, conditional release or post-release supervision has been established. This process is initiated by an offender’s Parole Officer, not by the Prisoner Review Board. If the Parole Officer wishes to pursue revocation proceedings, a probable cause/ preliminary hearing is conducted by the field parole staff and an impartial hearing officer. If probable cause is found, the inmate may be returned to the Department of Corrections’ custody. The offender is then scheduled for a revocation hearing before the Prisoner Review Board. The inmate has the right to have witnesses present who may have information relevant to the alleged violation. If the violation is established to the satisfaction of the Board, it may revoke the parole, conditional release or post-release or take any other appropriate action. In the case that the release is revoked, this action could include assessment of a penalty in the nature of further time which the inmate must serve before again being considered by the Board for release.
For offenders under post-release supervision, the Board is limited in the length of time it can order offenders to serve on a condition violation. For these offenders, depending on when their original conviction occurred, the Board may only revoke for up to 90 days or for 180 days. The exception to these limits is if the violation results from a conviction for a new felony or misdemeanor. Prior to July 1, 2013, upon revocation for a new felony conviction the inmate was required to serve the entire remaining balance of the period of post-release supervision even if the new conviction did not result in the imposition of a new term of imprisonment. As a result of FY2013 legislation that amended K.S.A. 75-5217 (c) the Board, beginning July 1, 2013, has the discretion to require an offender to serve a revocation period up to the date of sentence discharge when revocation is predicatd on either a new felony or misdemeanor conviction.
Waiver of Final Prisoner Review Board Hearing
During the FY 1999 legislative session, K.S.A. 75-5217 (b) was amended to provide post-release supervision violators the option of waiving their final hearing before the Prisoner Review Board. Following arrest, an offender is served documents regarding the pending revocation and has the option to admit guilt and sign a waiver of their right to a hearing before the Board. In doing so, the revocation process for the offender begins at that point, and the revocation period of either 90 or 180 days begins immediately, rather than after the offender appears in person before the Board at a revocation hearing. Offenders who have been granted a parole release are not eligible to waive their final hearing before the Board.
Discharge from Supervision
An inmate under the indeterminate release system can be maintained on supervision up to the expiration of his/her maximum sentence. There is a minimum requirement of one year of supervision before discharge may be requested. This action may be initiated by the offender’s supervising Parole Officer, the Prisoner Review Board or the offender. A poor performance under supervision could result in causing the inmate to remain under supervision for a longer period of time than one or two years. If an inmate’s adjustment has been satisfactory, the Parole Officer may submit a written report, summarizing the offender’s conduct while under supervision, which outlines for the Board issues such as employment, compliance with conditions and law enforcement contact. The Request for Discharge must be accompanied by an approval by the Parole Officer’s supervisor and is then considered by the Board. Without regard to his/her conduct, an inmate must be released from supervision at the maximum sentence expiration date in the absence of an early discharge.
During the FY 2013 legislative session, K.S.A. 22-3717 (d) (2) was amended to allow offenders serving 12, 24 or 36 months of post release supervision to petition the Board for early discharge if they have paid court ordered restitution.
In the event an inmate under the indeterminate release system has had his/her Conditional Release revoked and/or serves to the maximum, he/she shall be released from prison at that time as the offender’s sentence has been satisfied. The Board has no authority to set any conditions upon the release or to have any control over the offender’s conduct. The Department of Corrections, similarly, cannot provide any supervision. Once an offender reaches his/her maximum date the offender’s obligation to the State has been satisfied and the Board records this with the issuance of a maximum sentence discharge certificate.
Executive Clemency is an extraordinary method of relief and is not regarded as a substitute for parole. An inmate who believes that he/she has a deserving case for executive clemency may request the necessary applications from institutional staff. Once completed by the inmate, these forms are submitted to the Board, along with the inmate’s reasons for applying for clemency. As required by law, a notice of the inmate’s application is forwarded to the official county newspaper in the area of conviction so that interested parties may offer comments. In the event the inmate does not have sufficient funds for the cost of this publication, the Department of Corrections bears the cost. Comments are solicited from the sentencing judge and the prosecuting attorney. After the formalities have been accomplished, the Board conducts a file review to determine if a personal interview with the inmate is warranted. After reviewing the file, and conducting a hearing (if needed), the Board then submits a recommendation to the Pardon Attorney in the Governor’s office for the Governor’s final action.