No matter the length of a sentence, a prisoner should develop a parole strategy immediately. An important pathway to reintegrate capable prisoners back into society, parole is a privilege that is earned or lost by a prisoner’s conduct while serving time.

Today, a prisoner earns or loses parole based on a point system. Negative points are based on a prisoner’s sentence, prior criminal record, age, performance in prison programs and other factors. The point system takes effect as soon as the sentence begins.

Low scores may influence whether a prisoner even gets to go in front of a parole board. Having a plan in place going into prison rather than the days before your Parole Board hearing can be the difference between getting out and staying in your cell.

Your parole strategy should include some combination or all of the elements below.

  1. Prison programming: Programming factors into the point system based on a prisoner’s performance in MDOC sponsored activities. Scored with an adequate or inadequate grade, by completing at least one program adequately with no inadequates, a prisoner receives positive points. Programming includes Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Vocational Village, Motivational Interviewing and more. For a full list of MI programs at each facility, click here.
  2. Reading and writing: A prisoner makes strides in prison by reading informative, self-help material. While reading and participating in programming, take notes and review what you learned. The Parole Board asks prisoners during their review what they’ve learned in prison, so being prepared to answer that question specifically is crucial.
  3. Creating a supportive team: Maintaining contact with supportive friends and family, whether through letters, visits or phone calls, matters leading up to a parole hearing. A prisoner who shows the Parole Board they have a plan to avoid further convictions once released has a better opportunity for parole.
  4. Be proactive: Each prisoner must prove they can modify their behavior. A prisoner who takes the initiative and proves they are rehabilitated through their actions receives opportunities other prisoners wouldn’t.
  5. Prepare for life after prison: The most important factors to prepare for is future housing (at least two options), meaningful/verifiable employment and a plan for further education. Between employment and education, a prisoner needs to account for at least 30 hours a week of work, school or a combination of both.
  6. Substance abuse and mental health plans- Whether it is issues with drugs, alcohol, mental health or something else, prisoners with a history of these issues need a plan in place for how to keep their thinking straight and stay on the right path once paroled. This could be AA, NA, relapse prevention or finding mental health services and a therapist to use.

The Parole Board looks for prisoners who are genuinely remorseful. Remorse that comes from a place of anger only breeds resentment. True remorse must come from a place of repentance. The Parole Board looks for prisoners who have done their own self-assessment, put in the work and used their time in prison to obtain cognitive tools they can use to improve their thinking patterns and decision making. It is a process that should begin while incarcerated and continue when they are released; all of this with the goal of becoming a better person and a law abiding citizen. To be in the best position to be paroled, preparation should begin immediately at reception which can then lend itself toward a prisoner’s parole and overall long term success.