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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between probation, parole and pardon?

Probation is ordered by a judge as an alternative to incarceration and allows the convicted person to remain in the community. Parole is ordered by the Board of Paroles and Pardons and allows the convicted person to complete their sentence in the community. A pardon means that the individual is fully forgiven from all the legal consequences of his crime and his conviction. For example, it is possible for someone to receive a probation sentence without ever going to prison, typically for non-violent, first offenses. Someone who serves a prison sentence can be allowed by the State Board of Paroles and Pardons to serve that sentence in the community.

How does someone get a pardon?

First, the applicant must write to the SC Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services for an application. Once they turn in the application, which consists of a written application, letters of reference and a fee, it is then investigated by Agents in the county where the first offense occurred. When the investigation is completed, it is given to the Paroles and Pardons Board for a hearing.

How often does someone receive a parole hearing?

For non-violent crimes, every year, once eligible. For violent crimes committed before Jan. 1, 1996, every two years once eligible, assuming no other law prevents a parole hearing.

When is someone eligible for parole?

A person convicted of a crime defined as non-violent under South Carolina law is eligible for parole after one-quarter of their sentence.

Someone convicted of a violent crime, committed prior to January 1, 1996, is eligible for parole after serving one-third of their sentence. If committed after January 1, 1996, they are not eligible for parole with some exceptions.

Just because someone is eligible for parole doesn't mean they automatically are paroled. Last year, for example, only about one-fifth of those who had parole hearings were actually paroled. About 15 percent of violent offenders received parole.

Are there certain crimes for which there is no parole eligibility?

For most violent crimes listed above committed after Jan. 1, 1996, and which carry a sentence of 20 years or more, there is no parole eligibility. For more details on "no parole" crimes, visit the South Carolina Code of Laws website Section 24-13-100, et al.

Once someone is considered eligible for a parole hearing, what happens?

Staff of the SCDPPPS conduct an investigation into the case of each parole-eligible inmate, beginning some six-months before the inmate's scheduled parole hearing. The results of this investigation are presented in summary form to the members of the Board for their consideration during the hearing. The personal appearance before the Board is granted to each eligible inmate who is imprisoned in a state correctional institution.

The Parole Board then considers several factors, such as: sentence date; present offense and prior criminal record; personal and social history; institutional experience, etc. and applies a set of criteria in making their sole judgment. There is no right to parole.

When does the Parole Board meet?

Parole Hearings (full seven-member Board or three-member Panel) are held weekly. The Board generally convenes in full on alternating weeks to consider parole for inmates convicted of offenses defined as violent by statute. At least five affirmative votes must be cast for such inmates to be paroled. During the remaining weeks, the Board meets in three- member Panels to consider inmates convicted of offenses defined as nonviolent by statute. A unanimous vote must be cast by the Panel for any parole action to be taken. Cases receiving split votes are rescheduled before the Full Board, where at least four affirmative votes must be cast for non-violent inmates to be paroled.

What does someone have to do who is on probation or parole?

Probation, Parole, and Community Supervision, are very similar in enforcement. Offenders under SCDPPPS supervision report to their county offices on a schedule determined by their risk level. This level is initially based on the type of crime committed, prior criminal record and other factors. Offenders at the highest levels of risk of failure (of their supervision) are required to report weekly, while lower risk offenders may report monthly or quarterly. After an initial supervision period based on the risk level, agents are permitted to set a level of contact with the offender which reflects the particular circumstances of the individual case.

Once the offender has reported, their Agent asks them if they are complying with the conditions of supervision. The offender usually must produce proof they have worked, and discuss their current circumstances. They also may have to go through an in-office drug test.

What is the longest someone can serve on probation or parole?

Five years is the longest someone can receive a probationary sentence. Parole can last for the rest of someone's life, if, for example, they are paroled for murder, on a life sentence.

How does electronic monitoring work?

Electronic monitors are small, plastic encased devices that notify the Central office of SCDPPPS when someone is at home. An offender on electronically monitored home detention (normally imposed by a judge or the Parole Board) must either be at home or at work, with exceptions approved in advance by the Agent. If the electronic monitoring device determines the offender is not at home when they are supposed to be they are subject to arrest and confinement in prison.

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