Parole Support Letters:
The following information, taken from Parole Board guidelines has been published once a year for five years, to benefit family and friends of inmates who write letters to the Board of Pardons and Paroles.
Prisoners are encouraged by the Board of Pardons and Paroles to provide evidence of support for their release on parole. One way to do this is through letters supporting a Prisoners release. The information below is provided for Prisoners and family members who have questions about such letters.
SUPPORT LETTERS FOR THE PAROLE FILE
There are no rules for support letters. These are only guidelines and suggestions. You must use what fits your own special situation. Don't be afraid to ask people to write letters. Many people care and want to help. Your request for help may give them a better understanding of the correctional process.
WHAT IS A LETTER OF SUPPORT?
Letters of support are evidence that the offender will have a network of friends and family to help when he or she is released.
1. Somebody know the prisoner and cares.
2. The prisoner has free world input while in prison.
3. Someone will help when he/she gets out.
4. The good side of the prisoner and thus help balance
the bad side which appears in his or her criminal record.
WHO WRITES SUPPORT LETTERS?
1. You, family members, close friends and loved ones.
2. Relatives, aunts, uncles, and grandparents.
3. Respected members of the community, such as
4. Prospective employers, school teachers,religious teachers,
students, counselors, etc.
5. The Prisoner's Corrections Counselor/Supervisor or other
people who have known him/her while in prison, e.g.
chaplain,counselor, teacher,volunteers from the community.
If you can't find anyone who knows the prisoner, you may
ask for letters from people who know you and state that
your support will be of value during the offender's re-
adjustment to the community.
Also, people can write offering their support for the prisoner
based on their position in the community (such as a
minister in your church.)
HOW MANY SUPPORT LETTERS?
At the time of the parole interview, three to ten support letters should be enough. Keep sending support letters regularly, not just at the parole interview date. This shows consistency and active support and lets the Parole Board know that you'll stick by the prisoner after release.
WHAT TO SAY?
There are several general areas of information to be included in these letters.
1. State your name, age and occupation. If you have been on
the current job for a number of years, state the number of
years you have been similarly employed.
2. State your relationship with the prisoner and the length you
have known him or her.
3. Your belief that, despite his/her mistake, he/she is a good
person and the reason you feel this way.
4. Your belief that the offender will be a useful and law abiding
citizen if given the opportunity. You may describe
improvements in the prisoner's attitude, behavior, or efforts
he/she has made to improve himself/herself. If you will
provide housing, give the address and a phone number if
you have one. You can mention other kinds of help you can
provide, for instance, clothing or transportation.
Other people who will write a support letters may include
the same type of information. If they are willing to help the
prisoner in some way, they may include that in the letter.
Some people are willing to help, but don't have money or a
job to offer. They can offer to spend time with the offender
doing something positive and worthwhile, or they can offer
advice and encouragement. This kind of help is also
necessary for someone just released from prison.
NOTE: In some states, it is possible for prison employees to write letters of recommendation for parole. This is most commonly done by supervisors in a department where a prisoner works or by ranking officials on the unit who have personal knowledge of the prisoner.
OUTLINE OF THE SUGGESTED THINGS TO COVER IN THE LETTER
(Insert address for your particular Parole Board)
Parole Board Member
Board of Pardons and Paroles
P.O. Box 12345
Any town, USA 78711
You may address your letters to a specific person on the Parole Board, if you wish, but it is also acceptable to address your letter Dear Parole Board Member:
State your name, age, and occupation. If you have been on the same job for a number of years, state the number of years you have been similarly employed.
State your relationship with him/her (e.g. friend, relative, teacher, employer, co-worker, etc.)
Your belief that the, despite his/her mistakes, he/she is a good person; the reason you feel this way, your belief that he/she will be a useful and a law abiding citizen given the chance. Describe any improvements in the prisoner's attitude, behavior, or efforts he/she has made to improve himself/herself (education, treatment programs).
Your willingness to be supportive and how, e.g. if you will provide housing, give address and phone number if you have one, transportation, job offer. Other people who are willing to help, but don't have money or a job to offer, can be supportive and worthwhile by offering advice and encouragement.
Additional suggestions to go along with this information....
1. If you or someone you know has written support letters in
the past, make copies and include them with the parole
2. Included in this packet should be any information and/or
photocopies of awards or achievements your loved one may
have achieved while incarcerated.
3. Write out a "game plan." What does your loved one plan to
do when he or she gets out? Be specific. Tell the board
what job opportunities are in the area.
4. Make a copy of the packet and send it to your loved one.
Your loved one should write up a similar type of packet
themselves. They can make a separate one, or include it in
the one you make for them. He or she should present the
packet(s) to the person who comes to interview them when
parole time approaches. It makes a much better impression
when they have obviously made preparations for their
future, as well as having a source from the outside who
cared enough to put together a presentation packet as well.
Copied from a former parole officerÖÖ
As a former Institutional Parole Officer, Let me tell you that the last set of guidelines here are what you should base your letters on. Letters of a personal, emotional nature are fine as well, but must be targeted along the lines set forth and with an eye toward illustrating the criteria the guidelines give. But what is best to put forth is something that doesn't sound like all the 1000's of other letters the Parole Board receives all the time.
Her advice to keep it short and concise is also very important, as Parole Boards could just about swim in the paperwork about them. Emotive qualities should be self-evident in the letters as you discuss the points listed above. Because, even though your fiancee or husband is so dear to you, so are so many of the guys who go up for parole to their loved ones. Many rotten boys have mammas and girls who love them dearly. Most all inmates need to get home as fast as possible to help out their families. Most all inmates have families who suffer through incarceration right along with them. Many inmates have strong support networks out there (or at least people who would love to be strong support networks.) The questions to ask are: 1) What has the inmate done differently than ALL the other inmates (even sincere ones) to warrant their early return to the street? 2) How can you show that the inmate is not at risk for re-offending? (that would be things like stable employment, a lot of accountability and support in their environment, well defined goals and a delineated plan of action to accomplish those goals, etc.) 3) Has the inmate actually showed a behavioral change since the conviction? Can you prove this by a clean disciplinary record, or at least show a consistent improvement while incarcerated? 4) Is there a desire to succeed on the part of the inmate, and how the inmate represents that desire before the Board is very important. Like one Parole Board member said to me "I truly believe that 95% of guys who sit before me are speaking in complete honesty when they say that if they are paroled, they will not re-offend and will follow l the rules. And then we have to reconcile that with the fact that almost 75% will either re-offend or will willfully violate the rules of parole." When almost 3 out of 4 come back off parole, you should ask yourself "What will make it different for my loved one." The first answer most people say is "Because he/she wants it so much! They want everything to work out so bad, and they'll work so hard to make sure it works." But want too often is just that -wants. Show in your letters why he/she will actually be successful on parole! That is the key! And how you present that to a Parole Board can make all the difference.