Letters to a parole board can be written by either supporters of an incarcerated person or the offender him- or herself. Having intelligent parole letters in his or her case file can help an offender when the parole panel makes its decision. It is important that each parole letter be thoughtful, heartfelt, and unique.
Each letter should detail and focus on aspects of how the offender has reformed, how he or she will be supported when released, and what steps he or she intends to take to continue to improve his or her life. Once parole letters are submitted to the appropriate office, all letters are available to the parole panel and may make the difference between a denial and a release.
A parole letter should be written on letterhead with contact information, date, and address of the parole board. The letter should include the salutation "Dear Honorable Members of the Parole Board," followed by a colon. An appropriate valediction for these letters is "Sincerely," followed by the full name of the writer. If the offender knows anyone who is gainfully employed and respected in the community, it would be a benefit to have that person write a supportive parole letter on official letterhead. All letters submitted should be respectfully official and use formal language, including appropriate punctuation, spelling, and letter conventions.
The information that the parole panel needs to make a decision revolves mainly around how the potential parolee will use his or her second chance to become a useful citizen. People who will benefit most from parole letters are genuinely contrite, have family and community members ready to oversee the reintegration into society, and have activities and a job set up starting immediately after their release. Parole letters are all about providing evidence of this well developed support network.
The information in a parole letter should be specific but heartfelt. For instance, when detailing how a supporter will provide a residence for the parolee, the supporter should emphasize how happy her or she will be to have the parolee home again and how much time they will spend with them. When talking about how the offender will stay away from unsavory activities, one might consider emphasizing how much joy the offender has gotten out of new, more useful activities and how those pursuits will be vigorously encouraged.
As important as getting parole may be, a few supportive letters from strategic community members with actual support to offer will do much more for a potential parolee than a massive influx of letters without substantive offers of support. Different regions have different guidelines for how to write a parole letter, and so it is important to get advice from the individual board where this letter will be sent.
The prison will also have information on where the parole letters should be sent. One last thing to remember is that ongoing letters, arriving not only when the parole hearing comes around but consistently coming in regular intervals, will signify to the parole panel that the support is ongoing and is not feigned simply to get the offender out of jail. Writing a good parole letter means actually acting on your promises of support so that there is a real-world network waiting to help the parolee stay out of jail for good.
How To Address the Parole Board in a Letter
A well-written parole letter can determine the outcome of a parole hearing. Using appropriate language and formatting will make a positive impression on the parole board.
Use Professional Formatting
A parole letter is a formal business letter, so it should be typewritten and formatted accordingly. At the top of the letter, type your name and address, the date, and the address of the parole board. Below this, indicate the name and identification number of the incarcerated person.
Use Respectful Language
Address the letter, "Dear Honorable Members of the Parole Board." As this is a business letter, it is appropriate to use a colon instead of a comma after the salutation. Write in a professional tone, avoiding the use of slang or profanity. Sign the letter "Sincerely," followed by your full name, leaving a space above your name to sign the letter.
Use Proper Spelling and Grammar
Review your letter for spelling and grammar before sending it. If you are not confident in your writing skills, have someone proofread the letter for you. Using correct grammar and spelling will make the parole board more likely to take you seriously.
Although the letter should sound professional, this doesn't mean you should use a template or have someone else write it for you. Whether you are writing the letter on your own behalf or someone else's, the parole board needs to know that you mean what you say. Form letters sound insincere; your statement should be in your own words.
Do not be afraid to express emotions in your statement. If writing for yourself, you should express remorse for the offense and joy and excitement for your future outside of prison. If writing on behalf of another person, you might tell the parole board how much you care about the offender and how eager you are to support him or her outside of prison.
What To Write in a Letter to the Parole Board
The goal of a parole letter is to persuade the parole board that the offender can return to society without re-offending. There are several things you should mention in your letter to convey this point.
Relationship With the Offender
If writing on someone else's behalf, start by explaining who you are and your relationship with the incarcerated person. Include details such as how you met, how long you have known one another and things you did together. Be as specific as possible; you must demonstrate that you know the offender well enough to make a statement on his or her behalf.
Whether you are the potential parolee or a supporter, you must not attempt to minimize or excuse the offense. You also should not argue that the person is innocent. Although it may be tempting to air these concerns, this letter is not the appropriate place to do so. Parole boards are more likely to grant parole to people who accept responsibility for their offenses. Denying the offender's guilt may harm his or her chances of being paroled.
Evidence of Changed Behavior
People who have taken steps to change their behavior and improve their lives stand a better chance of being approved for parole. Include any evidence you have to this effect. For example, if the person has pursued education or undergone therapy while incarcerated, you should explain this in your letter.
Plans for the Future
When people leave prison, those who have strong support networks are less likely to re-offend. The parole board will be looking for evidence that the potential parolee has supportive family and friends waiting for him or her outside of prison. When writing a letter of support, state how you will help the person when he or she leaves prison. For example, if you are offering the person a job or an apartment, include details about this offer in your statement.
Do not lie or make unrealistic predictions; the parole board will see through it. For example, don't state that the potential parolee has a job or a place to live lined up if this is not true. If you are incarcerated and concerned about finding a job or housing after leaving prison, resources are available to help you. Not having a job or housing arranged won't necessarily result in parole being denied, but being dishonest with the parole board might.
Can You Email a Parole Support Letter?
Some jurisdictions accept parole support letters by email. For specific information about where and how to send a letter, check with your state prison system.