How to write reference letters to a parole board

Updated March 23, 2017

Knowing how to write an effective reference letter to a parole board can make the difference between a deserving inmate obtaining parole and a loved one remaining in jail, because their appeal for parole was denied. The letter must highlight the inmate's qualities that they have acquired during their prison stay. If the inmate has not been doing much while in prison, the parole board will have a hard time saying that the inmate has changed. Just like a resume, experiences and references are important when it comes to receiving parole.

Write the date of the letter on the first line of the word processor document. Below that, list the name of the inmate, their inmate number and the address of the prison or jailhouse. This information can help the parole board know who the letter is about right off the bat. (see Reference 1; pp 4 & Resource 1)

Press "Enter," and then give the name and address of the prison's parole board. Press "Enter" again, and then write the names of the members on the parole board. If you do not know their names, call the prison and ask the representative for their names. Addressing the letter to a direct person creates a professional touch. (see Reference 1; pp 4 & Resource 1)

Start by introducing yourself to the parole board, and then state your relationship to the prisoner. Keep this section short and to the point, because the letter is not about your relationship to the potential parolee. (see Reference 1; pp 4 & Resource 1)

Write about the positive changes the inmate has had since their incarceration. For example, if the inmate has taken classes toward getting a GED or a degree, highlight these educational advances. In prison, inmates also can take vocational or self-help classes, such as anger management or behavioural health, which can also increase the chances of parole. These classes indicate that the inmate has been improving themselves and not slacking in prison. (see Reference 1; pp 4 & Resource 1)

Talk about the sacrifices you are willing to take, if your loved one is granted parole. Inmates that have been in prison for years can become unstable when they come out of prison and are given their new, limited amount of freedom. Incentives, such as immediate employment, a stable housing environment, support and guidance weigh heavily on the board's decision to give an inmate parole. (see Reference 1; pp 4 & Resource 1)

Close the letter with a statement that reiterates that the inmate has changed. Thank the parole board for their time and attention, and then end the letter with a customary "Sincerely" and your name. (see Reference 1; pp 4 & Resource 1)

Proofread the letter by using a spellcheck application and having a friend or family member read over the letter. Print the letter, and then provide a signature directly underneath your name. (see Reference 1; pp 4 & Resource 1)

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