Public Safety and Corrections
Board of Parole
James Michael Causey
The mission of the Board is to conduct prompt, fair, impartial hearings on the matters brought before it and take appropriate action. Consideration will be given to public safety, victims and the rehabilitation and control of the offender. This mission guides the Board in making the critical decisions whether or not the release of inmates from the prisons to supervision in the community is in the best short and long term interests of public safety and to determine under what conditions such release may be had. Additionally, it guides the Board in determining whether to rescind, revoke, or otherwise modify its previous grants of parole.
Board policy recognizes the punishment, deterrent, and incapacitation purposes of sentencing in criminal cases. However, those concerns are balanced by the evidence-based knowledge that offenders are more likely to succeed in the long term if conditionally released to a period of community supervision instead simply of being discharged to their community without condition, support, or oversight. The Board’s mission is further informed by the belief that offenders should be viewed as human beings capable of positive change, that the Board plays an important role in fostering such change and that all offenders should be given a fair chance to benefit from change opportunities.
One reason why parolees fare better after release from prison is the Board’s requirement that they successfully complete recommended rehabilitation programs and exhibit acceptable behavior in prison before release. Equally important is the assistance they receive in planning for community reentry. Next, supervision in the community provides the necessary monitoring and assistance to help develop patterns of behaviors which will best ensure successful long term reintegration. Finally, evidence shows that the longer inmates remain in prison, the more likely they are to reoffend after release.
In addition to consideration of punishment, as identified above, and victim input, the timing of parole release is contingent on two primary factors. First, in imposing the term of years of the minimum sentence, the sentencing judge expresses the court’s judgment, based on all sentencing factors including the crime and criminal history of the defendant and the impact of the crime on the victim, as to the minimum amount of time to be served before parole may be considered. When the minimum sentence has been served, the Board, in its judgment, and in consideration of the crime and criminal history, rehabilitative progress, victim impact and reentry plan, determines whether release to parole is in the best interests of public safety, victims, and rehabilitation of the inmate.
The Board’s work contributes significantly to the quality of life in Wyoming communities. Reduced recidivism means fewer crimes and less victimization of citizens. Lives of offenders and their families are restored.
Agency Background and Structure
The Board is a separate operating agency comprising seven Board members with administrative and operational support provided by seven staff members including an Executive Director appointed by the Board. Board members are gubernatorially appointed to serve six year terms. The statutory criterion for appointment is that no more than four members may belong to the same political party. Members work part time, receiving the same pay as legislators for days worked at hearings, business meetings, training and other Board-related activities. The members appoint a non-member Executive Director who is responsible for overall management of the agency and its operations.
Hearings are conducted at least once each calendar quarter at each of the five WDOC facilities and two of the Adult Community Corrections facilities for a minimum of 24 hearing sessions per year. Inmates with sentences of less than 6 years receive their first hearing in the quarter preceding the quarter in which they will complete their minimum sentences, making them eligible for parole, and, if denied, may appear during the same quarter in succeeding years. Inmates with sentences of 6 to 15 years receive their initial hearing one year before their earlier projected parole eligibility date, specifically during the quarter preceding the quarter in which their eligibility falls. Inmates with minimum sentences of more than 15 years receive their initial hearings further in advance of eligibility—3 years—as an opportunity for the Board to gain familiarity with the inmate and motivate positive behaviors.
Prior to hearings, the members review all file materials on each inmate they will interview, including WDOC reports on the crime, criminal and family history, assessed risks and needs, institutional adjustment and behavior, victim input and parole plans. For each hearing session, three members located throughout the State and at least two staff members travel, by land and by air, to convene at the hearing location. Usually around 25 inmates are brought before the Board each day for parole hearings, and hearing sessions last from two to four days. The Board also conducts revocation hearings for parole violators and provides victim interviews upon request. Each member on average participates in 11 hearings per year and attends four business meetings, with additional training days.
At the parole hearing, the inmate may be asked to relate the facts of the crime, to describe his or her rehabilitative accomplishments and plan for reentry and may submit any special requests to the Board for desired action. WDOC caseworkers inform the Board about their views of the inmate’s institutional performance and readiness for parole.
In each case, the three members of the hearing panel consider all material received, the testimony of the inmate, supporters/opponents, victims, case workers and counselors and, with fairness, impartiality and consideration of public safety, victims and treatment and control of the offender as their guide, decide whether the inmate will be paroled or spend another year in prison.