When a person is convicted of a crime, their punishment may include a prison sentence. The sentence imposed by the court is the maximum length of time the person must serve in prison. However, if the person is eligible for parole, the person may be released from prison before the sentence is complete.

The length a person must spend in prison depends on several factors. A mathematical formula is used to calculate parole eligibility.

Factors that impact a person’s parole eligibility date include:

  • The type of offense committed
  • Length of sentence
  • Date the sentence was issued by the court
  • Jail time credits
  • Whether the conviction was for a violent crime, non-violent crime, or sex crime
  • The date the crime was committed
  • Whether the sentence was a combined sentence 
  • Whether the crime was committed in an institution, during an escape, while on parole, or while on shock probation

The class of the felony and the type of crime dictate the percentage of time that the person must serve before becoming eligible for parole. 

For example, a non-violent offender convicted of a Class D felony has to serve at least 15% of a one to five-year sentence. However, violent sex offenders convicted of a Class D felony must serve at least 20% of their sentence before they are eligible for parole.

The Kentucky Parole Board

The Kentucky Parole Board is established under KRS §439.320. The Governor appoints members to the Parole Board. The governor chooses the Parole Board members from a list of names given to the Governor by the Kentucky State Corrections Commission. The Senate confirms nine full-time members.

The duties of the Parole Board members include:

  • Study the cases that are ready for review for parole and debate whether they should grant parole on the record
  • Conduct reviews and hearings related to granting parole
  • Decide whether to grant parole and impose restrictions and conditions for parole 
  • Issues warrants for individuals who violate the terms of their parole and hold hearings on those matters
  • Determine the period of supervision for parolees, including extensions and reductions of supervision periods
  • Grant final discharge to eligible parolees

The Parole Board meets to conduct business and during parole hearings. Only two members are required to be present for a parole hearing. In most cases, parole hearings are held via video conference instead of face-to-face hearings. 

Meetings are open to the public, but people who wish to attend a parole hearing must make arrangements to attend ahead of the hearing.

Factors the Parole Board Considers and Their Decisions

The members of the Parole Board consider several factors when they decide a parole case. 

Factors relevant to parole decisions include, but are not limited to:

  • The nature of the offense committed by the prisoner
  • The prisoner’s prior criminal record, including any juvenile criminal convictions
  • Parole and probation history for the prisoner
  • Opinions and input from victims or other people impacted by the crime
  • Statements from the prosecuting attorney and the sentencing judge
  • Community resources available to help the prisoner re-enter the community
  • The conduct of the prison while incarcerated, including participating in rehabilitation programs
  • The results of psychological evaluations 
  • The Parole Guidelines Risk Assessment
  • History of substance abuse
  • Mental and emotional stability
  • Overall health and any illnesses

The Parole Board may issue the prisoner a parole plan. If so, the person must have an approved home placement and complete any programs required by the Board before the person’s release from prison. The Department of Corrections supervises the person once they are released on parole.

Board members may defer the parole decision to a later date. In these cases, the prisoner remains incarcerated, and a date is set for another parole hearing. 

The maximum deferment date for non-sexual, non-violent Class C or Class D felonies is 24 months. Other prisoners may have their parole hearing deferred up to five years. Longer deferments may be ordered by a majority vote of the entire Board. The Parole Board may also decide to allow the prisoner to serve out their sentence, minus any credits or statutory time received. 

If you have questions about the parole process in Kentucky, you can contact a criminal defense lawyer. A lawyer can help you if you or a family member were arrested. Having an attorney to protect your civil rights and defend you in court can give you a better chance of a positive outcome for your criminal case.