Factors That Influence Parole Decisions in New Jersey

Having handled parole planning, administrative parole appeals, parole appeals to the Appellate Division, and parole revocation hearings over many years, I have been asked:

What factors do Members of the Parole Board consider?

There are factors that Board Members are required to consider and factors that weigh heavily on the responsibility imposed upon them to protect the community. Not all factors weigh the same. Creating a record to reassure the members that the inmate will not reoffend and will comply with parole conditions should be the focus of any parole plan and should be done well before the inmate meets with the initial Hearing Officer and the Two Member Panel.

The Factors the Board Members Are Required to Consider

(a) Parole decisions shall be based on the aggregate of all pertinent factors, including material supplied by the inmate and reports, which may be submitted by any persons or agencies that have knowledge of the inmate.

(b) The hearing officer, Board Panel, or Board shall consider the following factors, and, in addition, may consider any other factors deemed relevant:

  1. Commission of an offense while incarcerated.
  2. Commission of serious disciplinary infractions.
  3. Nature and pattern of previous convictions.
  4. Adjustment to previous probation, parole, and incarceration.
  5. Facts and circumstances of the offense.
  6. Aggravating and mitigating factors surrounding the offense.
  7. Pattern of less serious disciplinary infractions.
  8. Participation in institutional programs which could have led to the improvement of problems diagnosed at admission or during incarceration. This includes, but is not limited to, participation in substance abuse programs, academic or vocational education programs, work assignments that provide on-the-job training, and individual or group counseling.
  9. Statements by institutional staff, with supporting documentation, that the inmate is likely to commit a crime if released, that the inmate has failed to cooperate in his or her own rehabilitation, or that there is a reasonable expectation that the inmate will violate conditions of parole.
  10. Documented pattern or relationships with institutional staff or inmates.
  11. Documented changes in attitude toward self or others.
  12. Documentation reflecting personal goals, personal strengths, or motivation for law-abiding behavior.
  13. Mental and emotional health.
  14. Parole plans and the investigation thereof.
  15. Status of family or marital relationships at the time of eligibility.
  16. Availability of community resources or support services for inmates who have a demonstrated need for same.
  17. Statements by the inmate reflecting on the likelihood that he or she will commit another crime, the failure to cooperate in his or her own rehabilitation, or the reasonable expectation that he or she will violate conditions of parole.
  18. History of employment, education, and military service.
  19. Family and marital history.
  20. Statement by the court reflecting the reasons for the sentence imposed.
  21. Statements or evidence presented by the appropriate prosecutor’s office, the Office of the Attorney General, or any other criminal justice agency.
  22. Statement or testimony of any victim or the nearest relative(s) of a murder/manslaughter victim.
  23. The results of the objective risk assessment instrument.

(c)  Any detainers shall be noted by the hearing officer, Board Panel, or Board and shall not be grounds for denial of parole.

Factors That Weigh Heavily on the Parole Board Members

Remember, the Parole Board Members are regular people who come to the job with varied life experience. Board Members want to do the right thing. Board Members want to protect the community. No Board Member wants to have to live with the fact that they released someone who, after release, commits a violent crime or reoffends.

Board Members rightfully take their obligation to protect the community very seriously. Inmates that have convictions that involve violent crime, sex offenses, mental health problems, substance abuse history, and/or who have a repetitive criminal history have a heavy burden to convince Parole Board Members that they will not reoffend and will comply with conditions of parole. Any parole plan has to aggressively confront and address these kinds of issues to provide the Board Members with confidence that the inmate will not reoffend and will comply with all conditions of parole.

Appearing Before the Two Member Board Panel

An inmate’s appearance before the Parole Panel is critical as the inmate will be challenged on the details of their crime, their criminal history, their insight, their remorse, their release plans, and participation in past and future rehabilitative services. Before appearing before a Parole Panel, it is important that the inmate speaks with an experienced attorney who knows their family history, work history, criminal history, and parole plan so that they can be properly prepared, respond intelligently, and address the concerns that will be raised and tested by the Panel Board Members.


It is a mistake to believe that release on the first parole eligibility date is a given, it is not. The record put together by the Department of Corrections and the Parole Board is limited to the official record and will not fully develop and support facts that the inmate will be law-abiding and will comply with conditions of parole.

The most important stage of the parole process is putting together a compelling parole plan that will give Parole Board Members assurance that granting parole is in the interest of society, that the community will be safe, and the inmate will comply with all conditions that the Parole Board imposes as part of release.

To maximize the chance of release on parole, family and friends of the inmate should retain an experienced attorney who can help create an appropriate, compelling parole plan, and prepare the inmate for the parole hearing before the Two Member Parole Panel.


§10A:71-3.11 Factors considered at parole hearings; adult inmates

Eric Marcy, Esq. is Of Counsel at Lyons & Associates, P.C., with Offices in Somerville, Morristown, and Freehold. His practice areas include criminal, civil rights, professional licensing, health care, parole planning, appeals, revocations, and administrative law.

Inquiries may be directed to him by telephone at 908-575-9777 or by email.

Mr. Marcy has been a member of the New Jersey Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers since 1987. He served as a Trustee of the NJ-ACDL from 2001 to 2010.

Mr. Marcy served as an instructor for the Institute of Continuing Legal Education Criminal Practice “Skills and Methods” program for newly admitted attorneys from 2000 to 2009.

Mr. Marcy has been selected for inclusion in New Jersey Super Lawyers® lists 2006-2009, 2017 to the present.

He is also an authorized attorney under the New Jersey State PBA Legal Protection Plan, representing law enforcement officers in administrative, civil, and criminal matters.