Parole is the conditional release of an offender to supervision prior to the expiration of the sentence. An offender must be parole eligible before consideration can be given. Eligibility is established by North Carolina general statute. Those offenders whose crimes were committed prior to October 1, 1994 may be eligible for parole, although offenders with certain types of sentences, such as sentences of special probation and those serving sentences for health law violations, cannot qualify.
When a parole-eligible offender enters the prison system, information is obtained which allows the Post Release Supervision and Parole Commission to gather as much background information as possible. Obtaining the official crime version and determining the victims of crimes are examples of gathered information.
When an offender becomes eligible for parole, all available information on the offender's case is reviewed to determine if the offender should be denied parole or investigated for parole. All parole decisions require the majority vote of the Commission. Some of the factors considered by the Commission include the nature and circumstances of the crime, the previous criminal record, prison conduct, prison program participation, input from court officials, victims, and other interested parties.
If the Commission does not feel that the offender is ready for parole, parole is denied. The reasons for denial are considered confidential, but any persons who have expressed an interest in being notified of the Commission's decision are notified that the offender was denied and when the next parole review will occur. An offender must be reviewed at least once per year after becoming eligible for parole, except in murder and sexually violent offense cases.
If the Commission determines the case warrants further consideration, a parole investigation is initiated. During a parole investigation, additional information is obtained that could include the offender's release plans, views of law enforcement and court officials, and views of any interested parties. Media notification is required in some parole investigations such as life cases.
During the investigation, notifications of parole investigation are sent to anyone who has expressed an interest in notification. Parties are encouraged to provide any information for the Commission's consideration. Should the Commission determine that parole be approved, notification of the decision will again be sent to interested parties.
For felony offenders who were convicted under the Fair Sentencing Law (crimes occurred between July 1, 1981 and September 30, 1994) and received a term of 18 months or greater, these offenders, in addition to otherwise possibly qualifying for parole consideration, must be granted a 90-Day Mandatory Parole at the end of the felony term. The Parole Commission does not have discretionary review authority for this type of parole, but anyone who has expressed an interest in notification will receive notice prior to the parole of the offender on this type of parole.
Processing Structured Sentencing Cases
Parole, as it previously existed, was eliminated under the Structured Sentencing Act for crimes committed on or after October 1, 1994. The Structured Sentencing Act mandates that the offender serve at least 100% of the minimum sentence and 85% of the maximum sentence. Once offenders with felony convictions have served their required time, they are released on post-release supervision. The Commission has no decision-making power as to the offender's time of release under Structured Sentencing. However, it sets conditions for the period of post-release supervision.