Parole: Definition and Meaning

For many years, it has been in practice that prisoner of war or other such prisoners are being released earlier than the time period decided in the original judgement. There are certain circumstantial situations under which, prisoners can be legally released to go home, which legally defines the term parole. But such release is conditional and remain under supervision of a parole officer.

What does Exactly Parole Define?

Parole, which is also known as provisional release, is a form of supervised release for a convicted person serving a prison punishment. It allows the person to serve the remainder of their sentence in their society, but under the supervision of a parole officer. Parole is granted on the condition that the person follows certain rules and regulations, such as regular reporting to their parole officer, finding legal employment, and avoiding any sort of criminal activity. In other words, he or she will be a law abiding and responsible citizen. If such person violates the terms of their parole anytime, he or she can be returned to prison to serve out the remainder of their sentence.

Literal Meaning

The term "parole" originated from the French word "parole", which means "word," speech, and also "promise". In the context of criminal justice, "parole" refers to the provisional release of a convicted person from prison, under the condition that they make a promise, or give their "word", to abide by certain rules and regulations while they are in the society. Likewise, "parole" refers to the agreement between the prisoner, who is released and the state or the respective authority responsible for their supervision.

Historical Background

The use of parole or release conditional release of prisoners on certain grounds has a long history, with roots tracing back to ancient civilizations. The idea of parole emerged as a way to grant leniency or clemency to prisoners, often for reasons such as good behavior, and it has been used in various forms throughout historical period.

In modern times, parole became more formalized as a system of release for prisoners especially in the 19th and 20th centuries. However, one of the reasons to implement parole was, prison populations increased and it was becoming difficult to manage them. In the United States, parole became commonly used as a way to reduce prison overcrowding and to provide prisoners with the opportunity to reintegrate into society while being supervised.

Furthermore, Alexander Maconochie, a Scottish geographer and captain in the Royal Navy, introduced the modern idea of parole. In 1840, he was appointed as the superintendent of the British penal colonies in Norfolk Island, Australia where he made a plan for the early but conditional release of prisoners.

Provisions of Parole in India

In the beginning, the Prison Act of 1894 and the prisoner Act of 1900 deals with the parole in India. However, after independence, parole became the part legal system, as along with a few landmark case laws, every state has its own legislation to accept parole plea.

Furthermore, the 2010 Parole/Furlough Guidelines that were issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, provide a framework for the grant of parole and furlough (temporary and conditional release from prison). Major points of the guidelines are −


The guidelines specified the eligibility for parole and furlough, which focuses on the minimum period of imprisonment to be served, good conduct, and the nature of the offense. The minimum period of imprisonment mentioned here is one year excluding any period covered by remission.

Application Process

The guidelines also set out the procedure for submitting an application for parole and furlough, including the information to be provided and the documents to be submitted.

Decisions on Parole/furlough

The guidelines also provided guidance on the decision-making process, including the role of the prison authorities, the parole board, and the state government.

Conditions of Release

The guidelines also set out certain conditions that must be followed by a prisoner on parole or furlough. These conditions include, reporting to parole officer regularly, restrictions on movement, and other such conditions as deemed necessary by the authorities.

Revocation of Parole/furlough

The guidelines also provide guidance on the circumstances under which parole or furlough may be revoked. However, the most important point is, if the prisoner violates the conditions of release or engages in criminal activity, then his or her release will be revoked.

The 2010 Parole/Furlough Guidelines represented an effort to standardize the process and aimed to streamline the process of granting parole and furlough, ensuring that it is transparent, consistent, and fair, and that public safety is protected. On top of this, also provide an opportunity to a prisoner for rehabilitation and reintegration into society.

Purpose Behind Parole

Charanjit Lal v. State of Delhi is considered to be an essentially landmark judgment. In this case, the court while observing the purpose behind parole held that, “the prisoners must be allowed to breathe fresh air for at least a short period of time, provided that they maintain good behaviour throughout their confinement and show a want to mend and become good citizens. While they are serving a sentence in jail, the redemption and rehabilitation of such inmates for the good of society must be given fair consideration.

In addition, the case of Budhi v. State of Rajasthan, clarified the purpose behind parole and held that the parole mainly serves three purposes and they are −

  • The parole can act as a motivator for prison inmates to change their ways and life.

  • The purpose is to ensure that the prisoners’ family relationships are as intact as possible.

  • The parole can help as an assistance to the offenders in gradually assimilating into society and getting adapted.

In Babu Singh and Ors. v State of U.P. the court said that, “unrelenting isolation in the harsh and hardened company of other inmates leads to a slew of unmentionable vices, therefore humanizing parole periods are an important aspect of our system’s compassionate constitutionalism.”

Refusal of Parole

Though the integral purpose behind the idea of parole is to standardized the legality of parole and based on good behavior, one must be given change to start a new life. But at the same time, it does lays down some instances where parole can be refused. Likewise, parole can be refused largely under the following grounds −

  • The convicted is found to violating the prison disciplines or found in committing crime against the state (no behavioral change in jail).

  • The convicts whom parole is risky or a threat to the national security of India.

In addition to this, in the following cases, parole would ordinarily be not granted except, if in the discretion of the competent authority special circumstances exist for grant of parole;

  • If the prisoner is convicted of murder after rape;

  • If the prisoner is convicted for murder and rape of children;

  • If prisoner is convicted for multiple murders.

There have been some cases of misuse of parole and hence, the penalty is also provided in case of misuse. The convicts can face a term of up to two years in jail under the legislation.

Period of Release

The period of release on parole shall not, ordinarily, exceed one month at a time; however, in certain exceptional circumstance, it can be increased. Usually, the Government decides the period of release based on the merits of each case mentioned in the given parole application.


Though the provision of parole is believed as a nice concept, as it gives another chance of rehabilitation, but the use of parole has been a subject of debate, with some arguing that it is an effective way for rehabilitation and reducing recidivism, while others contend that it is too lenient and can put society at risk. Secondly, the provision is more often misused, as some powerful and affluent criminals take undue advantage of it.

Despite these drawbacks, parole remains an important part of the criminal justice system, and it continues to be used as a way to provide prisoners with a second chance while ensuring public safety.


Q1. How many types of parole are there in India?

Ans. Following are the two main types of parole in India −

  • Regular Parole − This is a form of a conditional and supervised release for a prisoner who has served a substantial portion of their sentence. The prisoner is allowed to go out of the prison for a specified period of time, usually for a specific purpose such as attending a family emergency or for medical treatment.

  • Emergency Parole − This is also a form of temporary release from prison for a prisoner but in an emergency situation, such as a family crisis or a medical emergency. Emergency parole, usually, is granted for a short period of time, and hence the prisoner is required to return to prison as soon as the emergency is over.

Q2. How many types of parole are there in the United States?

Ans. Following are the major types of parole in the United States −

  • Early Release Parole − This is a form of parole that is granted to a prisoner who has served a substantial portion of their sentence and, on certain specified ground, is released prior to the completion of their sentence.

  • Mandatory Parole − This is special type of parole that is mandatory for certain prisoners who have been convicted of specified crimes.

  • Discretionary Parole − To grant such type of parole is at the discretion of the parole board, which is largely depend on factors such as the prisoner's behavior and their risk to public safety.

  • Medical Parole − This type of parole is granted to a prisoner who has an emergency medical condition that cannot be treated in prison adequately.

  • Work Release Parole − This is another special type of parole that allows a prisoner to work outside of the prison while still serving their sentence.

Updated on: 17-Feb-2023


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