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A Guide for the Perplexed – Parole Release Programs in Ohio

Your loved one is in prison. Naturally, you want to know when he or she will be home again.

“It all depends” is hardly a satisfying answer, but it truly does depend on the crime, the sentence and, in certain cases, the vagaries of the Parole Board. Most importantly it depends on exactly when he or she was sentenced − before July 1, 1996 under the “Old Law” or after that date under Ohio’s Truth in Sentencing law. Since the 1996 Truth-in-Sentencing law is not retroactive, prisoners’ terms vary based on the sentencing scheme under which they were sentenced.

Sentencing under the Old Law

Under the Old Law, Ohio’s Adult Parole Authority (APA) had both statutory and discretionary authority to decide when someone was eligible for early release. When someone was eligible for parole was determined by parole guidelines which factored two considerations:  (1) the seriousness of the crime and (2) the offender’s risk of recidivism (return to crime). Each consideration was assigned a score, and those numbers were placed on a grid to determine the appropriate guideline range for parole eligibility.

In 2002, Ohio’s Supreme Court disallowed the APA’s practice of considering the conviction and dismissed crimes in combination to determine the seriousness of the crime — which sometimes eliminated any possibility of parole. Now parole eligibility must comport with the crime and the plea bargain.

Once eligibility for parole was established, the Parole Board considered a number of factors before making a decision whether or not to grant parole:

  • a prisoner’s mental and moral qualities and characteristics
  • a prisoner’s knowledge of a trade or profession
  • a prisoner’s former means of livelihood
  • a prisoner’s family relationships
  • any other matters affecting the prisoner’s fitness to be at liberty without being a threat to society

Prisoners sentenced under this Old Law still face these parole eligibility issues, which are highly subjective and must also consider the feelings of the crime victims or their families’ feelings.

Sentencing under the New Law

Under the New Law (S.B.2) most felony sentences have absolutely fixed terms, unlike the old indeterminate sentences that provided a range, for example, of 15 to 25 years. Under the new determinate sentencing law, if a judge sentences a felon to ten years, the prisoner serves ten years, barring an early judicial release or judicially approved furlough or other program. The new law also eliminated:

  • statutory limits on consecutive sentences (where a prisoner serves one sentence for rape and a second sentence for kidnapping, one after the other)
  • good time credits to reduce prison time
  • the Parole Board’s authority to determine release dates for prisoners with determinate sentences

If you want to know when your family member is going to be released, it is best to consult with an Ohio criminal law firm which is dedicated to serious criminal defense. Contact Yavitch & Palmer Co., a legal team with over a decade of experience in Ohio’s criminal justice system.

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