Conditional Release: Definition & Overview

Instructor: Kat Kadian-Baumeyer

Kat has a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership and Management and teaches Business courses.

Getting out of jail early is something many prisoners dream about. Conditional release allows for the early release of a prisoner, but it also gives the prisoner similar rights and responsibilities of a parolee.

What Is A Conditional Release?

In general, a conditional release happens when an incarcerated person is released before the prescribed jail or prison term has been completely fulfilled. But it's not exactly a 'get out of jail free' card. Conditional release comes with rules, which vary by jurisdiction. Consider this lesson as an overview of conditional release and not specific to any one state or jurisdiction.

Typical cell block

How Does Conditional Release Work?

Conditional release is often based on gaintime prisoners earn while serving time. Think of it as an incentive program, of sorts. Prisoners earn gaintime in several ways:

  • Good behavior
  • Educational credits, like earning a GED
  • Performing a good deed like saving someone's life or stopping a jailbreak
  • Passing a literacy program

When a prisoner earns gaintime, the time is taken away from the original sentence, and the prisoner is free to leave prison. Now, this is not without restrictions. Conditional release generally follows the same protocol for paroled prisoners. A paroled prisoner actually serves his or her time and leaves incarceration under supervision by a parole officer. Conditional releases are also supervised and are considered 'free' when the minimum sentence expires.

For example, if Joe Smith is sent to prison with a sentence of five years and is conditionally released after three years, he remains under supervision and is required to:

  • Remain a law abiding citizen
  • Be gainfully employed
  • Refrain from criminal activity
  • Register and engage in regular visits with a court appointed supervisor

Once the remaining two years of Joe's prison term expires, he is considered a free man. Now, if Joe were to find himself in legal hot water, all bets are off, and he will be sent back to prison to serve the remainder of his term.

General Process For A Conditional Release

While state laws vary, there is a general process for a conditional release.

  1. A committee reviews the prisoner's records, including the severity of crime, the sentence, and behavior while incarcerated
  2. Determine a minimum percentage of the sentence has been served (varies by jurisdiction)
  3. Registration with a supervisor
  4. Victim is notified of release
  5. Employment must be sought, and criminal status must be disclosed
  6. Home address must be recorded
  7. Sex offenders must register within their jurisdiction

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