The incarceration that accompanies a criminal conviction is considered part of an offender’s debt to society. Only when they have fulfilled their sentence can they reenter society and become contributing citizens again. Parole is often how someone who has met the mandatory requirements of their sentence can seek release before completing the longest possible term for their sentence.
The parole process requires that an inmate present their case to a board. The board of parole reviews the individual’s criminal record and evidence about their time in state custody. The person requesting parole may make a statement directly to the board expressing remorse for their actions or making a case for why they are ready to re-enter society.
A recent lawsuit about the implementation of a new law in Tennessee might make more inmates eligible for release earlier.
The board of parole was resistant to change
Changes to the parole regulations in Tennessee have made numerous inmates potentially eligible for early release. The Re-Entry Success Act of 2021 creates a presumption that those seeking parole could qualify unless there is evidence of a good cause justifying their continued incarceration. Unfortunately, the board of parole did not embrace the new law, which took effect in July, 2021.
It took a lawsuit from an inmate and a court ruling to change their practices. The board had previously denied requests to move up parole hearings from inmates. Some of the people who might qualify for release found themselves facing a multi-year wait for a hearing, lengthening their stay in state custody.
Now, those who may qualify for parole under the new rules have the right not only to push for parole but to request a timely hearing to review their case.
What does this mean for criminal defendants?
Those in state custody will have a better chance of securing parole and will hopefully spend less time waiting for their hearing with the board of parole. Inmates who now have the presumption that their release will occur unless there is good cause will likely have more motivation to request parole hearings and carefully prepared for them.
Learning more about how the criminal law system changes and evolves in Tennessee can help those facing charges or serving a sentence.