If you don't cooperate with the court's conditions for parole, your chances of gaining parole are pretty low. What happened in Bill Cosby's case shortly before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court reversed his conviction is a good example of this. When prisoners approach their minimum sentence, the Pennsylvania Parole Board automatically considers whether they should grant parole. This happened in Cosby's assault case in May of 2021 in Pennsylvania, shortly before an appeal released him from prison.
Bill Cosby's Court Case
In September of 2018, a jury convicted Bill Cosby, best known for his iconic role as TV's Dr. Cliff Huxtable, of drugging and assaulting Andrea Constand in 2004. Constand was a friend and a Temple University professor. More than 60 women have accused him of similar assaults over five decades, although the alleged assault on Constand is his only conviction. Cosby is appealing his conviction to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court based on the trial court's decision to allow a 2006 civil deposition testimony as evidence.
Despite his pending appeal, Cosby would have been eligible for parole on September 25, 2021, after serving the minimum of his three to ten-year sentence. After his virtual interview with the parole board on May 7, 2021, the board gave three reasons for denying Cosby's application for parole:
- Cosby refused to take part in a program for sex offenders,
- Cosby had no parole release plan, and
- The Department of Corrections gave Cosby a negative recommendation.
According to a statement Cosby's lawyer gave to Newsweek in May, “Mr. Cosby wants nothing more than to be with his wife, children and grandchildren but he will not admit to being a sexually violent predator when he is not a sexually violent predator.” In a surprising twist, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned his conviction on June 30, 2021, release Cosby from prison. But most people eligible for parole can't assume an appeal will be an automatic win.
Obtaining Parole in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, incarcerated people don't have a right to parole. However, the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole (parole board) reviews every state offender with a minimum sentence at least four months before their minimum sentence date. Prisoners sentenced to life in prison aren't eligible for parole.
- Parole Criteria
The parole board uses criteria based on guidelines established under Pennsylvania law to determine whether to grant parole. See 42 Pa.C.S. § 2154.5 (2009). The parole board will often release eligible prisoners if:
- It's in the best interests of the inmate, and
- Releasing the inmate won't harm the Commonwealth's interests.
- Parole Conditions
After release, offenders must comply with their parole conditions and be subject to weekly supervision for at least the first six months of their release. Moreover, the offender's parole officer must inform the parole board of any parole violations.
- Administrative Parole
After one year, the parole board can move an offender to administrative parole for up to their maximum original sentence. Under administrative parole, an offender must:
- Make supervision contact at least once a year,
- Provide updated contact information with a new address or new job,
- Continue to pay restitution owed, and
- Comply with any other requirements the parole board imposes.
Because parole is a privilege rather than a right, any prisoner must agree to parole conditions set by the board. Without that cooperation, it's unlikely the parole board will grant parole, even for a famous comedian, as Bill Cosby discovered last month. Most people serving time won't have a bombshell appeal as a back-up “get out of jail free” card.
Hire an Experienced Pennsylvania Criminal Attorney
If you need to discuss parole options after a Pennsylvania conviction, attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm can help. Call 888.535.3686 today to schedule a consultation. Attorney Lento works hard to get justice for his clients, and he can help you too.