The State Parole Board's Division of Release includes more than 150 civilian employees and has offices in each of New Jersey's 12 correctional facilities. The primary duty of the Division of Release is to evaluate and assess each of New Jersey's adult incarcerated offenders, and determine their eligibility and appropriateness for parole release.
Parole counselors in the Division of Release facilitate the process by which parole decisions are made regarding inmates in New Jersey. Their main duty is to calculate each inmate's Parole Eligibility Date (PED) under State law, and ensure each case is processed in a timely manner. Parole Counselors make sure inmates understand the parole process, and that all necessary documents and information are in place to allow parole hearings to take place.
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 of parole, however, does not mean the individual will automatically be granted release to a parole officer's 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 inmate's criminal history including the current offense, the inmate's social, physical, educational and psychological progress, and an objective risk and needs assessment. The hearing officer then summarizes the case for the designated Parole Board Members' review.
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. All victim input is kept 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.
Prior to the release, the State Parole Board's parole counselors or parole officers will review the conditions of parole with the inmate, and create a discharge plan for the inmate's release to supervision. In addition, the Prosecutor Notification Unit within the Division of Release notifies the County Prosecutor of the parole release date established in the case of each inmate.
The Division of Release is also responsible for conducting rescission hearings for inmates who have been approved for parole release but have not yet been released from incarceration. Rescission hearings are required if the State Parole Board receives new information, such as charges of an institutional infraction, prior to the inmate's release. Rescission hearings lead to a determination as to whether good cause exists to rescind the grant or parole.