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Information about life sentence parole hearings

All adult inmates sentenced to life in prison are eligible for parole after serving 15 years of their sentence in the Commonwealth.

What to know

As required by law, all life sentence parole hearings are open to the public and recorded. During the hearing, testimony can be given from those in favor and from those in opposition to parole being granted. 

In an initial hearing, our Life Sentence Unit will create a summary report to present to the Board. This can include:

  • An official account of the crime(s)
  • The inmate's account of the crime(s)
  • Criminal history
  • Medical issues
  • Mental health issues
  • Substance abuse issues
  • History of institutional adjustment
  • History of institutional programming
  • Plans for parole
  • Hearing testimony in support
  • Hearing testimony in opposition

In preparation and to allow testimony, the Parole Board is required to notify the:

  • Office of the Attorney General
  • Office of the District Attorney in which the crime(s) were committed
  • Police Chief in the city or town in which the crimes(s) were committed
  • The victim(s) and their family members that were impacted

For decisions, the Board may:

  • Conduct the hearing unless the inmate waives their right to a full Board
  • Only render a decision after members have met in executive session and issue a record of decision
  • Allow absent members to review the hearing recording to vote

How a decision is made

During a life sentence parole hearing, the Board considers the inmate's:

  • Period of incarceration has been long enough and efficient in rehabilitation
  • Other convictions
  • Other criminal conduct
  • Incarceration compared to those in similar circumstances
  • Rehabilitation, which can include
    • Sense of remorse and understanding of harm caused by crime
    • Recognition of issues that may have caused crime
    • Conduct while incarcerated and participation in institutional programs
    • Demonstration of rehabilitated behavior
    • Reaction and response to previous denial of parole
  • Degree of support from family and friends
  • Likelihood of employment, with exception to elderly or disabled inmates
  • Specific plans for immediate and long-term housing
  • Plan for reentry
  • Willingness to observing general and specific conditions of parole