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The Importance of Family Letters to Parole & How to Write Them

The Parole Board Interview is one of the most important meetings of an inmate’s time during incarceration. Community and family support are key in providing a well rounded overview of your loved one's life prior to and upon release. 

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.

Inmates 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 Prisoner's release. The information below is provided for Inmates 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.

They show:

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 businessmen.
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. 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

Salutation:

(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:

FIRST PARAGRAPH

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.

SECOND PARAGRAPH

State your relationship with him/her (e.g. friend, relative, teacher, employer, co-worker, etc.)

THIRD PARAGRAPH

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).

FOURTH PARAGRAPH

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 packet.

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.

Should you require additional support or resources, Inmate Advocate Service & The State Shops Project offer packages to coordinate this process. Please CLICK HERE to contact us.  

Until our next entry; we wish you all the best.

(State Shops Project/Inmate Advocate Services presents the information on this web site as a service to our members and other Internet users. While the information on this site is about legal issues, it is not legal advice. Moreover, due to the rapidly changing nature of the law and our reliance on information provided by outside sources, we make no warranty or guarantee concerning the accuracy or reliability of the content at this site or at other sites to which we link.)

 



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