In Arizona, parole is a form of release from confinement. Inmates in prison for criminal offenses other than murder may become eligible for parole before their sentence ends. If approved for parole, inmates would spend the remainder of their sentence on community supervision. If parolees break a term of their release (the Arizona parole rules), however, they can be sent back to prison.
1. What is parole?
Parole is a way for inmates in Arizona to spend some of their prison sentences under community supervision. If approved, rather than spending the time in a prison run by the Arizona Department of Corrections, parolees would be released into the public under close supervision.
That supervision includes some strict terms of release. If the parolee violates any one of those terms, he or she could have their parole revoked and be sent back to prison to spend the rest of their sentence.
If the parolee complies with the terms of release until their sentence expires, he or she can get an absolute discharge that ends their sentence.
2. What are some common terms of parole?
Inmates released on parole have to comply with some strict terms of release. These terms will depend on the defendant and the criminal offense for which they were convicted.
However, some common terms of parole require the parolee to:
- not commit another crime while on parole,
- regularly report to a parole or probation officer,
- pay restitution to the victim,
- perform community restitution, also known as community service,
- pass regular drug tests,
- complete any court-ordered drug or alcohol treatment plan, counseling, or other courses,
- comply with existing restraining orders, and
- avoid any known criminal associates.
Additionally, parolees have to pay a supervision fee of at least $65 per month.1
3. What happens if one of these terms is violated?
Violating one of the terms of parole can lead to a hearing at the Board of Executive Clemency. The Board can either revoke parole and send the parolee back to prison, or reinstate parole but tighten its terms.
If the violation did not involve committing another criminal offense, then the Board can reinstate parole, but put the parolee on electronic monitoring, often with an ankle bracelet.2
If the violation involved another crime, then the Board will revoke parole.
4. How is this different from probation in Arizona?
Parole and probation are similar enough that they are often used interchangeably. They both involve:
- release from prison, under strict terms of release,
- severe penalties for a violation, including revocation, and
- many of the same terms of release.
The main difference between probation and parole is that parole is only an option after much of the sentence has been served in prison, already. Probation is often a sentence that suspends the sentence and completely replaces a prison term.
Probationers will have rarely served much, if any, time in prison before being released on probation. Parolees must have served most of their term in prison before they are eligible for release on parole.
5. What about work furlough?
The Board of Executive Clemency can also release inmates on work furlough. This is a type of parole that allows an inmate to leave prison in order to work during the day.
To be eligible for work furlough, the inmate must have:
- completed at least 6 months of his or her sentence in prison,
- less than 1 year left before becoming eligible for parole, and
- not been convicted for a sex offense.3
6. What offenses are eligible?
Most criminal offenses in Arizona are eligible for parole.
However, Class 1 felonies like first-degree murder are no longer eligible for parole due to the Truth in Sentencing bill – a state law that was passed by the Arizona Legislature in 1993 that dissolved the parole board in the state of Arizona. If not sentenced to death or to natural life in prison, these inmates are given a life sentence with the possibility of “release,” which requires the Arizona governor to either pardon them for their offenses or issue a commutation for their sentence.4
7. When can inmates become eligible for parole?
Inmates only get parole eligibility after serving half of their prison sentence, unless Arizona’s criminal law requires them to serve a minimum term or at least two-thirds of the sentence before becoming eligible.5
8. How does the parole hearing work?
Inmates who are eligible for parole will have a hearing before the Board of Executive Clemency. At this hearing, the Board will decide whether there is a substantial probability that the inmate will break the law if released, and if granting parole is in the best interests of the public.6
The Board has lots of discretion in whether to approve an inmate for parole. Factors that the Board may consider include:
- the criminal offense that led to the inmate’s incarceration,
- the inmate’s criminal history,
- statements by the victim,
- the amount of time the inmate has spent in prison,
- the inmate’s conduct while in prison, and
- any history of mental illness.
Having a criminal defense attorney can make a big difference in the outcome of the hearing.
- ARS 31-411(E).
- ARS 31-411(D).
- ARS 41-1604.11(C).
- Arizona Senate Bill 1049, Chapter 255, 1993 laws and Michael Kiefer, “Hundreds of People Were Sentenced to Life With Change of Parole. Just One Problem: It Doesn’t Exist,” Arizona Republic (March 19, 2017).
- ARS 41-1604.09(D).
- ARS 31-412.