When an inmate has a chance for parole, it’s a really big deal. Honestly, it’s all you think about. At least it was for me. When I was sentenced to thirty years in prison (two fifteen-year sentences, running concurrently), I had the chance to get paroled after a serving fifteen percent of my sentence, or 45 months.
Not long after I arrived at WERDCC, I was given a letter that contained the month and year of my parole hearing, or what we referred to as “my date.” It was a little over two years away, so in the meantime I had to work, go to classes, and stay out of trouble.
When I finally got to see the parole board, I was granted my minimum release date – exactly 45 months after I arrived in prison. There were a variety of reasons why I was able to get my minimum date. They included the fact that I stayed out of trouble, I was a first time-offender, and they believed my chances to re-offend were low.
Walking out of that prison after just four years instead of 15 was the best day of my life.
Not every state has a parole board; not every state gives their inmates an opportunity to be paroled, but if your incarcerated loved one has the opportunity for an early release, you can help make that happen by writing a letter of support.
When someone is paroled, it means they are technically still in the custody of the state, but they are serving the remainder of their sentence outside of prison walls.
A parolee has to regularly check in with their parole officer. They also have to have a job and a place to live. Parolees are required to follow all laws, stay away from drugs and alcohol, and many are ordered to go to some kind of treatment or therapy.
Eventually, my case was overturned by the state supreme court and my sentence was erased. That means I am no longer on parole, and I am a free citizen once again. But, I digress. This blog post is all about helping someone get their freedom back, so let’s get to it. Keep reading to find out how to write a letter to help get someone out of prison.
In today’s blog post, I will cover the following topics:
When your loved one is dealing with their criminal case, there’s not a lot of legal help you can give them. From arrest to trial (if they have one) to imprisonment, it’s a hard thing to watch. But that’s often your only option.
However, if your incarcerated loved one has the chance for parole, you will get the opportunity to speak up and help them regain their freedom. When an inmate goes in front of the parole board, there are a lot of factors to consider. One thing that can have a big influence is letters of support from people on the outside.
A powerful, well-written letter can be a deciding factor that determines if your loved one will get their parole granted. It’s not something to be taken lightly. You can use this letter to bring humanity into the situation, so the board sees your inmate as a person. Not just a criminal.
In a world of texting and emails, many of us have forgotten how to write and format a proper letter. Heck, some of us probably never even learned how. However, when you are writing a letter to the parole board to help get someone out of prison, this detail absolutely can’t be ignored.
I can not stress enough how important it is to format your letter properly. If you want to be taken seriously, you have to do it right.
First, your letter should be typed on plain white paper or personal stationery. If you are writing as a business professional, a letterhead is definitely encouraged but not required.
To properly format your letter, type the date in the upper right-hand side. Four lines down, type your greeting on the left side of the page. Here’s an example:
February 21, 2021
Dear Honorable Members of the Parole Board:
Remember to use correct punctuation and proper capitalization. Your greeting should be worded exactly as I have written it above. As you write your letter, each line should be single-spaced. There should also be a blank line between paragraphs.
There is no need to indent your paragraphs, just start them from the left side of the page. When your letter is finished, close it with “Sincerely” followed by your name typed four lines below. This will give you enough room to sign the letter. Also, make sure your closing, signature, and name are on the left side of the page.
Your Name Here
Be sure to proofread your letter for spelling, punctuation, and grammar mistakes before sealing it in the envelope. When addressing your envelope, be sure to find the right address for the parole board that’s handling your loved one’s case. You can easily do that with Google. Also, remember to include your name and address in the upper left-hand corner.
When writing a parole support letter, the first thing you want to do is introduce yourself in the opening paragraph. Tell them your name, your title or position if you have one, and your relationship to the inmate.
In the second paragraph, you can go into detail about your relationship with the inmate. You can discuss positive experiences you’ve had with them, and share their positive traits that you’ve witnessed. You can even include examples.
In the third paragraph, tell the parole board that your inmate is a good person, and you are confident they are not a threat to re-offend. Show your support for your loved one, and explain how you and others in your community are prepared to help. Essentially, this is the part of your letter that is your testimony on behalf of your inmate.
One of the biggest concerns the parole board will have is that the inmate will return to their old life with their old circle of friends and influences. Telling them that the inmate has a supportive group in their corner can help address this concern.
Finally, wrap up your letter by explaining why everything you wrote is the truth. Give your final argument for why your loved one should be paroled. Describe the changes and improvements you have witnessed.
If the inmate has a job waiting for them when they get out, let them know. Advise them of educational opportunities, and let them know all about the support network the inmate will have. Also, if you know of your loved one’s post-prison goals and plans, mention them.
Everyone in an inmate’s life who has anything positive to say about them can write a parole support letter. This includes family members, friends, former co-workers, and bosses. Teachers, counselors, mentors, and coaches are also great sources for support letters.
When you are writing a letter to the parole board to help your loved one get out of prison, the most important thing to remember is to be truthful. If you aren’t sure your loved one is ready to be released, don’t write a letter saying they are. The consequences of that could be awful.
Have you ever written a letter to help someone get out of prison? Let us know in the comments below.
Natalie earned her Bachelors degree in Journalism from the University of Kansas, and has worked in television and radio during her career. When she was a 19-year-old sophomore at KU, she got her first on-air job as a sports reporter for a CBS-TV affiliate. In 2013, she was sentenced to 30 years in prison for the possession and production of marijuana. She was released in 2017. We've kept her last name off of our website so that she does not experience any professional hardship for her contributions.
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