Robert Dennison, chairman of New York State’s 19-member parold board, schedules which members sit for which of the 20,000 hearings each year at prisons across the state, and to set up meetings or phone calls with crime victims and their families, who are entitled to express opinions about parole decisions, says the New York Times in a description of how the parole process works in the state. Board members must have a college degree and five years of experience in criminal justice, sociology, law, social work or medicine, can serve an unlimited number of six-year terms, earning $101,600 a year. They must interview inmates in person and are required to consider their criminal histories, prison achievements, and sense of remorse. Ultimately, parole decisions are subjective.
“It's a real hard issue: how much time should you do for taking a life?” Dennison said. “Many times, the parole commissioners feel differently than the judge and probably say to themselves or say to one another, 'I don't really care what the judge gave the person, I don't feel comfortable letting this person out. And I am going to hold him for two more years.' And that can go on and on and on forever.” More than 800,000 people are on parole; New York State has more than 50,000. In 2005, 9 of the 263 A-1 violent offenders – those who had been convicted of murder, attempted murder, kidnapping or arson – who went before the board were paroled, or three percent; overall, 38 percent of inmates who had hearings that year were paroled. Oer the last four years, 14 percent of the A-1 offenders who were eligible for parole were granted it.