If you were convicted of a felony crime and are serving a prison sentence, one of your major objectives will be to get out of prison as soon as possible. However, parole works differently in North Carolina than other states. You do not meet with a parole board to plead to be released on parole. Instead, North Carolina has adopted a post-release supervision program with strict rules that dictate when you can be released from prison into the program.
What Is the Post-Release Supervision Program?
Traditional parole was abolished in North Carolina in 1994 when the Structured Sentencing Act was enacted and applies to any crimes committed after October 1, 1994. While there is no parole board, the approval and release of inmates are decided by the Post-Release Supervision and Parole Commission. It is comprised of four members that are appointed by the Governor to a four-year term. Unlike traditional parole boards, the commissioners do not decide if a prisoner will be released on parole, but they do set the terms of release and supervise an inmate’s post-release progress. They also have the power to revoke the person’s release from prison.
Eligibility for post-release supervision is based on the structured sentencing system. This breaks down felonies based on the severity of the crime and is further divided based on the person’s past criminal history. When sentenced, a person is given a minimum and maximum sentence. A prisoner is not eligible for post-release supervision until he serves the following time periods:
- 100 percent of his minimum sentence
- At least 85 percent of the maximum sentence
How long a person will be placed in post-release supervision will depend on the class of felony that his crime falls within. Here are the basics of how this works:
- Class A. Class A felonies are crimes such as murder and other serious crimes, and the sentence is life in prison with no parole.
- Class B1 through Class E. These are violent crime felonies and crimes against persons. The post-release supervision is generally for 12 months following release from prison unless specified differently by the law. For example, if a person is required to register as a sex offender, the post-release supervision will be extended to five years.
- Class F through Class I. These are generally crimes against property. The post-release supervision is for nine months after release.
Can You Reduce the Time Before You Are Eligible for Post-Release Supervision?
There are ways that you can reduce your prison sentence and become eligible for the post-release supervision program sooner. This includes doing the following:
- Earned time. This is the time that people in prison can earn for good behavior and participation in certain programs while incarcerated. Inmates working at jobs or programs which follow the prison rules can reduce their prison sentences.
- Merit time. Merit time gives a person credit for instances of exemplary conduct. This can include working overtime, working under emergency conditions, and working in excessive heat, cold, or other adverse conditions. In addition, it can also involve other types of exemplary conduct, such as obtaining a GED.
No matter how much earned time or merit time you earn, you will still need to serve your minimum sentence before becoming eligible for the post-release supervision program.
What Conditions Could You Be Required to Follow While You Are in the Post-Release Supervision Program?
Once you are in the post-release supervision program, it operates in a similar fashion to parole. You may need to follow certain rules while you are in the program. Some of the requirements could include the following:
- Meeting with a supervising official at regularly scheduled times to review your progress
- Having restrictions on where you can travel
- Being required to attend alcohol and substance abuse prevention, anger management sessions, or counseling
- Not engaging in a crime
- Not using any illegal drugs
- Working or obtaining education or training to become employed
- Not possessing a firearm
- Undergoing random alcohol or drug tests
- Paying restitution
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