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What is Parole?

Updated on February 6, 2010

Parole is the conditional release of a convict who has served part of his term in prison. Paroles, regulated by state laws, are usually granted by a parole board to a prisoner with a good early record and good conduct while in prison. The parolee gives his word (parole in French) that, for the unexpired part of his sentence, he will stay within a certain locality, work at a legitimate occupation, avoid association with criminals, and report regularly to a parole officer, who is responsible for supervising his rehabilitation. If the parolee breaks his word in any of these matters, he may be sent back to prison to serve the remainder of his sentence. Probation is similar to parole except that the probationer is granted conditional freedom before serving any part of his sentence.

Parole is also a term in military law. Formerly a prisoner of war was sometimes given limited freedom if he gave his word that he would not try to escape or engage in hostile actions against his captors. In the total warfare of modern times, military paroles are rarely granted.

In civil law the term "parol" adheres closely to the French meaning of a spoken word. For example, a parol contract is a verbal agreement rather than a written one.

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