Membership of the Parole Board
The Board includes the Chairman, 14 Associate Board Members and three alternate Associate Members. All Board Members serve six-year terms, and are appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of the Senate. The Governor designates one Associate Member to serve as Vice Chair of the Board. The Chairman and Associate Board Members devote their full timke to the duties of the State Parole Board. The functions, duties, powers and responsibilities entrusted to the State Parole Board are carried out and implemented in accordance with State law and in adherence to the administrative roles and regulations promulgated by the Board and enacted as part of the New Jersey Administrative Code.
An Overview of the Parole Hearing Process
The Initial Hearing
Under New Jersey law, an inmate becomes eligible for parole consideration after serving one-third of his or her prison sentence, with the exception of cases in which the offender was sentenced to a period of parole ineligibility.
An inmate's eligibility for parole, however, does not mean the individual will automatically be granted release to parole supervision. Before a parole decision is made, the inmate must undergo the parole hearing process.
The first step in this process is the initial hearing. Hearing officers in the Division of Release conduct this preliminary review of the inmate's appropriateness for parole release. The hearing officer reviews professional reports concerning the inmateâ€™s criminal history including the current offense, the inmate's social, physical, educational and psychological progress, and an objective social and psychological risk and needs assessment. The hearing officer then summarizes the case for the designated Board Membersâ€™ review.
The Panel Hearing
The next step in the process is the panel hearing. The inmate appears before a Board panel (two-member panel of Board members) who will decide whether to grant or deny parole.
For cases in which the crime was committed on or after August 19, 1997, the Parole Act requires that an adult inmate shall be paroled unless the Board Panel determines the inmate has failed to cooperate in his or her own rehabilitation, or that there is a reasonable expectation the inmate will violate conditions of parole if released.
For cases in which the crime was committed before August 19, 1997, the Parole Act requires that an adult inmate shall be paroled unless the Board Panel determines that there is a substantial likelihood the inmate will commit a new crime if released.
The input of the crime victim is vital to the Board Panel's decision-making process. Crime victims may present testimony during a confidential hearing, or may submit their comments in writing. Victim input is deemed confidential. The inmate is not informed as to whether any victim chose to provide spoken or written testimony. Click here for more information about the State Parole Board's confidential Victim Input process.
The Board Panel considers all relevant factors and evidence, including evidence and testimony provided by the inmate. If the Board Panel declines to grant parole, the panel will set a Future Eligibility Term (FET). The term establishes the length of time that must be served before the inmate may again become eligible for parole consideration, and begin the parole hearing process once again.
If the Board Panel decides to grant parole, the Panel may establish additional special conditions to which a parolee must comply, over and above the standard conditions required for all parolees. Such additional conditions may include a requirement that the parolee seek employment, submit to random drug tests, or undergo substance abuse counseling. The Board Panel may also refer the parolee to the State Parole Board's Division of Community Programs for assignment to a specific rehabilitative program.
The Rescission Hearing
If the Board Panel decides to grant parole release to an inmate, the Panel will schedule the future date at which the inmate is to be released. If the State Parole Board receives additional information prior to the inmate's release, such as information that the inmate has committed a new institutional infraction, or information not considered during the Board Panel hearing, the State Parole Board may assign a hearing officer to conduct a rescission hearing to determine whether good cause exists to rescind the grant of parole.
The Revocation Process
If a parole officer has probable cause to believe an offender has seriously or persistently failed to comply with the conditions of supervision, the officer may arrest the parolee and return him or her to custody pending a probable cause hearing. In most cases, the parolee will be initially detained in a county jail facility, however, will be transported by the Department of Corrections to the Central Reception and Assignment Facility (CRAF) within a few days to await the preliminary and parole revocation hearings. While at CRAF, the offender will be interviewed by SPB staff and provided with the notice of the hearing, his or her rights at the hearing and all relevant discovery materials. The offender may represent themselves or retain his or her own attorney or, under certain circumstances, may have an attorney appointed by the Superior Court to represent them at the hearing. A request for appointed counsel may delay the hearing process to allow time for the court to review the application, appoint the pro bono attorney (if deemed eligible) and for the attorney to meet with the offender to discuss the hearing.
The State Parole Board will assign a hearing officer to conduct the hearing. The Hearing Officer is assigned to the Parole Revocation Unit and is thereby neutral and detached from the supervision of the offender.
The offender is entitled to two (2) hearings. The first hearing is the preliminary or probable cause hearing. The purpose of this hearing is to determine whether there is probable cause to believe the offender seriously and/or persistently violated a condition of supervision and whether revocation and return to custody is desirable.
If the Hearing Officer finds that there is probable cause to believe the offender seriously and/or persistently violated a condition of supervision and that revocation is desirable or if the offender is convicted of a criminal offense while under supervision a revocation hearing shall be conducted.
The purpose of the revocation hearing (if based on non-criminal conduct) is to determine whether there is clear and convincing evidence to believe the offender seriously and/or persistently violated a condition of supervision and whether revocation is desirable. If the revocation hearing is based on the conviction of a criminal offense committed while on parole there is a presumption that parole shall be revoked unless the offender demonstrates, by clear and convincing evidence, that good cause exists why he or she should not be returned to custody.
At the commencement of the preliminary or probable cause hearing, the offender may elect to waive the preliminary hearing and proceed directly to the revocation hearing (subject to any objection by the State). Upon conclusion of the revocation hearing, the Hearing Officer will prepare a written hearing summary of the proceedings including whether the evidence presented met the appropriate burden or not and a recommended disposition. The hearing summary is then reviewed by the Board Panel and a final determination is rendered.
The Board Panel may decide to either revoke parole and impose a future parole eligibility term or may decide to continue the offender on parole. If the Board Panel decides to continue the offender on parole they may establish certain additional special conditions to assist the offender in his or her rehabilitation.