Since parole is a conditional release, it can be revoked or taken away, if the conditions governing release are not met (technical violation) or if a new crime is committed during the probationary period (new offense). In this manner, it is similar to probation; however, it differs in that probation is governed by judicial decisions whereas parole is governed by administrative procedures. As a result of the administrative nature of parole, the revocation process is so varied among the jurisdictions.
In large part, however, most minor infractions are dealt with by the parole officer and may not necessitate involvement of the parole board. Some jurisdictions empower the parole officer to immediately take a parolee into custody for 24 (New York) to 48 hours (Pennsylvania) for purposes of obtaining an arrest warrant. This practice is typically employed when the offender represents an immediate threat to public safety.
With respect to the legal protections afforded to parolees, the first case to explore this issue was Morrissey v. Brewer (1972). The Morrissey case explored the extension of due process rights of (1) written notice to parolee prior to general revocation proceeding; (2) identification of the violations being presented and any evidence being used to prove that the violation took place; (3) the right of the parolee to confront and cross-examine accusers (subject to exceptions) and (4) a written explanation for the decisions regarding the revocation of the parole and what evidence was employed in making that decision. Perhaps the greatest contribution of the Morrissey case was the creation of a two-stage process wherein first, probable cause that violations had occurred had to exist in order to go to the second stage, which was the actual revocation hearing.
Interestingly, the Supreme Court did not choose to create a bright line rule for the right to court-appointed counsel at a revocation hearing. For the most part, however, most jurisdictions have followed the decision in Mempa v. Rhay (1967). While this case specifically dealt with the rights of probationers, it has been applied recently to parolees as well. Basically, the Supreme Court wrote that “any indigent is entitled at every stage of a criminal proceeding to be represented by court-appointed counsel, where substantial rights of a criminal accused may be affected.” In sum, the Supreme Court considered the liberty interests of the probationers and decided that a probation revocation hearing constituted a “critical stage” which dictated adherence to due process protections. This rationale has consistently been extended to include parole revocation hearings as well.