On the second Tuesday of each month, Georgia’s Board of Pardons and Paroles holds a “Visitor’s Day” when family members and friends of inmates in Georgia’s prison system can talk with a parole board hearing examiner, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. Visitors can say whatever they want and can present any documents they want, in hopes of gaining early release for their loved ones.
More than 230 people showed up yesterday at the parole board’s offices across the street from the state capitol in Atlanta. Officials say it is rare for anyone to present information that qualifies an inmate for immediate release. But they hope the face-to-face visits shed some light on the parole process.
“Meeting with a parole board staffer takes out the mystery surrounding why the board made a decision in a case,” said board chairman Milton E. “Buddy” Nix Jr. said. “In many cases, the family is told the inmate will be in prison for years to come, but at least they know the reasoning behind that decision.” The newspaper described a few of the cases that were discussed yesterday.
Unlike the Hollywood version of parole, inmates seldom get a chance to make their case directly to the board. Most decisions, more than 13,000 a year, are made by review of an inmate’s file by each of the board’s five members. Hearing examiners use a complex grid to calculate a potential parolee’s score and pass it on to the board for consideration. The grid considers factors such as the severity of a crime, the inmate’s behavior in prison and whether or not a potential parolee has a job or a place to live after release.