Parole Process

Parole serves a very important role in the criminal justice system. Most inmates who have been sentenced to prison will be released at some point and return to the community. Criminal justice experts agree that it is better for society if most individuals are reintegrated into the community on a gradual basis and under parole supervision rather than being released without it. Eight months prior to an inmate’s minimum sentence date, the preparation of the case file begins for each individual. Until the maximum sentence date is reached and parole completion is achieved, interaction with the parole process can, and will, vary.

Parole is the release of an inmate from prison prior to his or her sentence’s maximum date, but after the minimum sentence date, to continue serving the balance of the sentence under supervision in the community. 

Parole is different from a pardon or a commutation. The Governor may grant a pardon or commutation if the Board of Pardons, which is separate from the Parole Board, recommends that one be granted. The Board does not have the authority to parole from sentences of life imprisonment or death.

The Board has paroling authority over inmates sentenced to confinement in a state correctional institution. 

There is no right to parole under state or federal law.  

Minimum and maximum sentence dates are calculated by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC). The minimum sentence date is a parole eligibility date, not a guaranteed release date. Pennsylvania inmates are not required to serve 85% of their maximum sentence to be released on parole.

Parole Application

A Parole Application is a written request seeking parole consideration from the Parole Board by an inmate. The inmate or his/her attorney should use the Parole Board’s official Parole Application Form (PB 41) for submission.

The PA Parole Board is not required to consider an application that is submitted: (1) six months prior to the inmate’s minimum sentence date; or (2) within periods specified by the date a Board Action was recorded after a parole interview or hearing, per 61 Pa.C.S. § 6139.

The Parole Application should be mailed to:  PA Parole Board, RAO Office, 1101 South Front Street, Suite 5300, Harrisburg, PA 17104. After the application is received, it will be reviewed for eligibility.

An overview of the parole process is available for review. (pdf)

Sentencing Guidelines

Courts consider the sentencing guidelines in determining the appropriate sentence for individuals convicted of, or pleading guilty or nolo contendere to, felonies and misdemeanors.

Where crimes merge for sentencing purposes, the court shall consider the sentencing guidelines only on the higher-graded offense. Guidelines do not apply to: certain diversion programs, contempt or revocations, summary convictions, violations of local ordinances or current juvenile adjudications of delinquency.

For more detailed information on sentencing, please visit the website of the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing.

What is Recidivism Risk Reduction Incentive (RRRI)?

• Enables eligible, non-violent offenders to reduce their minimum sentences if they complete recommended programs and maintain a positive prison adjustment (good conduct and remain misconduct free during incarceration)
• Is a public safety initiative to reduce recidivism and victimization
• Intent is to provide more access to crime-reducing drug/alcohol treatment programs and to provide incentives to less violent offenders to complete programs that will provide them with tools to help them become productive, law-abiding
• Applies to sentences received on/after November 24, 2008

How does RRRI work?

At sentencing, the court makes the determination whether the defendant is an eligible offender. The prosecuting attorney has an opportunity to argue eligibility, and the victim has a right to provide input. The court will prescribe two minimum sentences: one is RRRI minimum; the other is the regular minimum.

**Example: A less violent offender who is eligible for the incentive receives a typical 2-4 year sentence. The RRRI minimum would be 18 months, and the regular minimum 2 years.

Short Sentence Parole (SSP)

Under Act 115 of 2019 (or the Justice Reinvestment Initiative 2 (JRI2)), Short Sentence Parole allows the Parole Board to parole an individual without requiring an interview at the end of the person’s minimum date or RRRI minimum date, whichever is shorter. If the person eligible for SSP was committed to a DOC facility after the expiration of his/her minimum date, the Parole Board will approve the person for parole without requiring an interview within 30 days after commitment to the facility.