Parole is among the most antiquated and imbalanced features of our criminal legal sentencing system. Incarcerated people — who have already served the minimum length of their sentences — are subjected to a largely arbitrary, highly discretionary, and labyrinthine process to request release. Parole rules procedurally disadvantage applicants by, for example, considering evidence never proven in court or taking information into account that is withheld from the applicant. Applicants for parole are often denied release not because they are undeserving, but because they do not know how to navigate the process.
The Parole Preparation Project NY (“PPP”) creates a structure and trains community volunteers to collaborate with incarcerated people on their applications to and appearances before parole boards. Volunteers help currently incarcerated people who are up for parole to “develop solid release plans, create compelling advocacy packets to submit to the Parole Board, and practice interviewing skills necessary for parole appearances.” Since its founding in 2013, the rate of release for incarcerated people working with the PPP is nearly double the statewide average in NY.
We are working to bring the Parole Preparation Project to Pennsylvania. While it is beyond our capacity to redesign the parole process, we can prepare incarcerated folks in ways that will facilitate better outcomes.