The Difference Between Parole and Mandatory Release

Released From Prison
The difference between parole and mandatory release from prison.

We here at try to keep up to date on what people want to know and what parts of the Texas parole process are confusing to both the offenders and their loved ones. One of the areas which appear to be most confusing are the differences between two concepts, parole versus mandatory release.

Once someone explains the difference, it is very simple, so we decided to take a shot at trying to help but if you read this article and still do not understand the difference between parole and mandatory release, please comment or drop us an email and we will explain further.

What is Parole?

In its simplest form, parole is the conditional early release from prison in which the parolee will serve the remainder of their sentence under the supervision of a parole officer.

After someone has been arrested, convicted, and committed to prison for anything other than a sentence for Life Without Parole or a capital offense which results in the death penalty, they begin accumulating two different types of “time”.

The first type of “time” is what is referred to as “straight time”, “day for day”, or “flat time”. This is the actual amount of time served. For every one day you serve, you get one day of credit. This is true whether the prisoner is being held in the county jail before a trial or plea, after the sentence and waiting to be transported to prison, or actually in the custody of a prison under the authority of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ).

The second type of “time” is what is known as “good time”, “good conduct time”, or a few other names. Essentially, “good time” is extra days which the legal/prison/parole system awards prisoners for their willingness to obey the rules and stay out of trouble while incarcerated. The good time credits can begin accumulating while in jail and the number of extra days awarded can vary between different facilities as well as the rule changes in the prisons.

Generally, for every one day served the prisoner accumulates two more days in “good time credits”, thus doing one day flat time actually gives the prisoner credit for three days.

The “day for day” plus “good time credits” are important because for all regular offenses, as opposed to 3g offenses, when the prisoners time (straight time plus good time) equal 25% of their actual sentence then they are eligible for parole.

For example:

If someone was sentenced to four years, the offender would serve one year or 25% of their time before they are eligible for parole.

If it is a 3g offense then they only become eligible for parole when the offender has served 50% of their sentence “day for day”.

For example:

If someone was convicted of a 3g offense and ordered to serve 20 years, the offender must serve 10 years before being eligible for parole.

(For a more detailed explanation of 3g offenses versus regular offenses please see this article).

Now, with the background out of the way, parole is when the prison system, through the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole (TBPP), releases someone from prison before their sentence is completely served. The person, now called a parolee, has to follow a set of rules and regulations for the remaining time of their sentence.

Mandatory Release

Mandatory release is what happens when a person completes their entire sentence while incarcerated. The person will walk out of jail with no further obligation owed to society, no additional rules to follow other than those which everyone else is supposed to follow, and with no reporting to a parole officer, paying fees, etc.

As an example, if a person is sentenced to ten years, actually spends ten years in prison, and is then released from prison they have gotten a “Mandatory Release” since the prison is not allowed to keep them in prison any longer than the sentence assessed by the judge or jury.


In short, parole is when a person is released from prison before their sentence is complete and for the remainder of their sentenced time they are not in prison but have to follow a very strict set of rules or they can be sent back to prison. Mandatory release is when an offender has completed all of their sentence when they walk out of prison and are free.

If you have an incarcerated loved one, we suggest you take a look at our book How to Prepare a Texas Parole Packet. The book provides easy to follow instructions and forms for creating a Texas parole package.

How to Prepare a Texas Parole Packet is available in ebook format as an instant download or in bundled form with an ebook and a printed book to be sent to an offender in prison or someone at home. Since we are an approved vendor there are no issues receiving our books at any of the Texas jails or prisons.


About the Author

Lawyer X
Lawyer X is the pen name of a former attorney who now spends all of his time writing and consulting. While in practice he was involved in both criminal and civil trials across the United States, including picking or helping to pick juries in hundreds of civil and criminal cases. In addition to his work as a trial lawyer, Lawyer X wrote articles, lectured at continuing legal education seminars, and was active in the legal community in many ways. He maintains anonymity now so that he can provide knowledge from inside and express honest opinions and viewpoints that other members of the legal community would just as soon weren't shared.