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Are they legally trained? Do they have oversight, like in the form of avenues for appeal from their decisions?

Are they selected from the lay public like a jury?

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    You might mention where in the world you are. If the US, then you should mention the state as this differs depending on location.
    – jwh20
    Commented Apr 6, 2023 at 0:08

3 Answers 3

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This is a matter of state law in the United States and varies considerably from state to state, with the parole board being particularly powerful in states with indeterminate sentencing as their primary option.

Are they selected from the lay public like a jury?

No.

How are parole boards formed?

Typically, a parole board is provided for either in the state constitution as implemented in a state statute, or entirely in a state statute.

Typically, parole boards are appointed in a manner set forth in a statute for fixed year terms, often, but not always, by a state governor, with or without legislative ratification of that decision.

Do they have oversight, like in the form of avenues for appeal from their decisions?

Very little.

If a parole board fails to follow a procedural requirement of the law or ignores a mandatory statute, an adversely affected inmate can seek relief in a court of law.

For example, if the relevant statute says that a parole hearing must be held within 60 days of parole eligibility and then at least once every two years thereafter, and no hearing is held by an applicable deadline, an inmate might bring a lawsuit to compel the parole board to conduct a parole hearing for the inmate.

But, discretionary decisions of parole boards on the release or non-release of an inmate are reviewed only for the most extreme abuse of discretion.

Judicial review of a parole board decision is generally not in the nature of an appeal the way that an appeal of a trial court decision would be. Instead, typically, a new lawsuit alleging misconduct by the parole board would be filed.

In some states, a parole board decision can be overridden by a Governor's decision to pardon an inmate or commute the inmate's sentence, but in many states that have parole boards the Governor's decision to pardon or parole someone must involve the parole board which is a board of pardons and paroles.

Are they legally trained?

Most parole board members are not legally trained, but some may be. Legal training is generally not a requirement to serve on a parole board.

Often parole board members will have a mix of backgrounds including law enforcement, corrections, and mental health services, as well as prominent members of the general public, such as current or former politicians.

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The Parole Board of Canada members are listed here and are appointed by the Governor in Council for periods of membershp of up to ten years.

The Parole Board of Canada (which is an administrative board) has an internal Appeal Division. An offender can apply for judicial review of the Parole Board Appeal Division's decision in Federal Court. See generally "Appeal of a PBC Decision."

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As at March 2022, the SPA consists of 8 judicial officers, 6 official members (4 serving police officers and 3 community corrections officers) and 16 community members.

So, yes, the judicial officers are legally trained. The police and corrections officers also have training in policing and imprisonment respectively. The community members are not.

The SPA sits in panels of five members for every private parole meeting and every public review hearing.

Each panel of five members comprises is a judicial officer, police officer, community corrections officer and two community members.

Decisions do not need to be unanimous but must be a majority vote of the members.

If the SPA decides not to grant parole, it must notify the offender of its decision and that the opportunity for a hearing is available to review the decision.

Following that hearing, avenues of appeal are limited:

There is no automatic appeal from a decision of the SPA on merits. There are two avenues of appeal:

  1. If the SPA has made a decision based on false, misleading or irrelevant information, an inmate can apply to the Supreme Court for a direction to be given to the SPA. See s. 155 and s. 176 of the Act.

  2. Prerogative relief pursuant to s. 69 of the Supreme Court Act if the SPA has made an error of law. See for example Esho v Parole Board Authority of NSW [2006] NSWSC 304 per Rothman J.

"The Act" being the Crimes (Administration of Sentences) Act 1999 (NSW)

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