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What does life with the possibility of parole mean?

Nov 20, 2023 | Violent Crimes

As of 2021, the California Governor’s Office reported 33,676 people in state prison with a sentence of life with the chance of parole. The possibility of parole means a person may one day have the opportunity to live outside the prison.

This punishment typically applies in cases for serious offenses, such as murder. Understanding life with the possibility of parole can be helpful when facing this sentence.

The basis

The basis for a life sentence with the chance for parole is the idea that a person could grow and change while in prison. It leaves room for the person to rehabilitate and move past mistakes they may have made.

A guiding reason for offering this sentence is to encourage people who receive a life sentence to work on self-improvement. It can push incarcerated individuals to take part in programs and services within the system that allow for growth. At its heart, it seeks to enhance the overall prison environment by giving people hope they could get out.

Chances of parole

Despite having the potential to receive parole, it is not easy to actually get approval to leave prison. Parole is notoriously difficult to get, especially if someone is maintaining their innocence. The parole board usually wants to see remorse and growth in the individual to even entertain the idea of release.

How the person behaves while in prison and the actions the individual takes to improve his or her life will play a role in the board’s decision. They have to have a compelling reason for believing the person has the ability to reenter society without being a risk.

Life with the chance for parole takes two approaches. The life sentence portion makes it clear the crime was severe and requires harsh punishment. At the same time, the parole option leaves the door open for the person to change and leave the prison system. It is a balance between protecting society and offering a fair chance to those with convictions.