How to Get an Interstate Compact Parole Transfer from Arkansas to Arizona Approved…Or Not


Yes, it’s a clunky title, and how. But getting Arizona to approve an Arkansas parolee for Interstate Compact transfer to the Grand Canyon State looks like it’s going to be pretty clunky, too–if it’s possible at all.

Either way, this post is designed as an open forum. If our readers have IC (Interstate Compact) insights or questions or experiences or just a need to vent, please do give us a holla in the Comments section. My wife and I have a prison pen pal in need–well, she will be in need when she eventually gets parole–and believe me, we can use all the feedback we can get.

Because it looks like we’re the people the system is designed to reject as a host family for our friend. That’s the demon word right there, see? Friend.

Doesn’t sound so bad on the surface, does it? Unfortunately, a friend is neither father nor mother, sister nor brother, sibling nor spouse nor even a mouse but merely…other. We’re not even the dreaded boyfriend or girlfriend, fiancée or bookend.

And yet we need to look at the system as closely as possible, keeping in mind that Karen and Lynne (not their real names) are as crucially important to us–and vice versa–as any blood relative. Pam (real name, my wife) is deeply disabled on a number of fronts, including early Alzheimer’s disease. No woman of mine is ever going to a nursing home, period. After nearly nineteen years of searching through more than two hundred prison pen pals, we’ve gratefully identified Karen and Lynne as the two assistants I’ll desperately need to help me take care of my redhead as her progressive diseases progress. Twenty-four hour care? Sure. Eight hour shifts for three people (Ghost, Karen, Lynne), 24/7, doable.

Fortunately, parole is not an issue for Karen. She maxes out in 2017 and will be joining us from the great state of Georgia at that time. But Lynne, incarcerated in Arkansas, is facing a different situation. In her case, eventual parole is virtually certain. At this point, she believes she can be approved for transfer to our home in Arizona, or if not that, then to a halfway house in Arizona. Pam and I believe she’s badly mistaken…but we’re more than open to being proved wrong.

In fact, we’d love to be proved wrong.

Based on the research I’ve done to date, she should be able to gain approval for the move via the federal Interstate Compact guidelines…but the willingness of Arizona (and other states) to abide fully by the spirit of the Compact is something else altogether.

With that in mind, I wrote the following letter to Lynne today, detailing the reasons I believe we have to be thinking about ways to support her (especially emotionally) in Arkansas, should she in fact end up being required to do every lick of her parole there.


Dear Lynne,

We received two snail mail letters from you in two days; awesome!

The first item I need to address, covered in some detail in the letter we received today, is parole, to wit:

1. No, neither Pam nor I have ever been convicted of a felony–or even charged with one, for that matter. However, Jennifer has, and she will definitely be part of our household by the time you could (if approved) be paroled to Arizona. That’s not the only problem with parole to us, though.

2. While I’m not doubting the truth of what you say regarding others who have paroled out of state successfully, I do strongly suspect those success stories were paroling to immediate family members, which of course we are not. (By our own standards, yes we are, but not according to the State.) The Interstate Compact FAQ page remarks that the rule governing the approval or disapproval of the Compact will generally be simple enough: Is the home in the new state going to give the parolee a better chance at success than the home in the original state? If so, the transfer should be approved.

3. However, that’s the Interstate Compact federal guideline and nothing more. No individual state is required to accept a given individual…well, they’re supposed to follow the guidelines, but they don’t always…and on the Internet forums, where real people and their loved ones post their actual experiences, I’ve found a whole lot of posts like the following one by 2sleepy, which is typical:

02-18-2011, 09:03 PM
receiving state has 45 days to respond to the request. there are 2 kinds of transfers- one is ‘mandatory’ that means the offender is going to live with his/her spouse or immediate family (mom, dad, sibling). As long as the offender is in compliance with parole in the sending state, has paid restitution, and the home meets the approval of the receiving state, then they have to approve it.

The other kind of transfer is non-mandatory (discretionary) which means offender is going to live with girlfriend/boyfriend or establish their own household. Those can be, and in fact are usually denied.

4. Every state is different, but the situation described in the following forum post by Fedup referencing Oklahoma is quite possibly even worse in Arizona; being a border state with Mexican cartel mules running drugs through Arizona in huge amounts and in fact invading America, our state is double jumpy about anything whatsoever to do with drugs.

May 8, 2014
You might check with Nebraska s Interstate Compact because I know here in Oklahoma they do require a active job search be in process with at least a pre offer of employment to transfer here on IC so as was stated above it could be a Nebraska thing.. the other thing here in Oklahoma is the crime if it is drugs then they must show that they can be gainfully employed before the transfer is approved because they think they will come here and not find work fast enough and start dealing drugs to get money or some crazy stuff .

5. In Montana, this would be about 10 or 11 years ago when we thought we’d found a great person to join our household–though in the end she showed her true colors prematurely, tried to work Pam and me against each other, and after three years of getting to know each other, we cut her off cold about seven months prior to her release–I personally visited with a Montana parole officer who happened to have his office in our then home town of Anaconda, Montana. He told me flat out that the odds of our (then) friend being accepted by Montana were slim to none. In fact, he’d never seen one approved except to immediate family: Mom or Dad or son or daughter or spouse yes, fiancee no. “Other friend” didn’t even make the list.

Of course, he could have been lying, just working the angles to keep from adding one more person to his case load. There’s no way to be sure about that. But my sense was that he was telling the truth.

6. In Arizona, I have not done the face to face thing but did make a couple of telephone calls to Arizona parole people at the state level a few years ago and was told basically the same thing.

7. I have nearly as much trouble believing you can successfully parole to Arizona (either to us or to a halfway house) as you have trouble believing you can’t. Between now and the time you come up for parole, it would obviously behoove both of us to keep doing research on the subject as we can.

8. If you cannot, then we (you, Pam, me) need to consider how we can provide you with strong support in Arkansas until your parole is completed and you are free to move wherever you like. We have a little while yet to figure it out one way or the other–and we are NOT going to lose you, no matter what it takes, okay? You’re far too precious a find.

9. While you’re talking with others about this, you might want to ask three specific questions:

A. Is the Interstate Compact success story you’re hearing…was that a mandatory (family) or discretionary (non-family) transfer that was approved?

B. Did Miss Success of the Year actually manage to go directly from prison to her new state of residence or did she have to wait a while under Arkansas parole supervision before being allowed to process the Compact?

C. How close to the source is your informant? That is, is she talking about her sister or perhaps a friend of a friend of a casual acquaintance who heard it through the grapevine? In other words, how accurate is her information likely to be?

10. The following entries are quotes from a U. S. Dept. of Justice study done on the Interstate Compact in 1998. (Yes, that’s a while back, but for the most part these things change slowly if they change at all.)

1. Interstate tensions, policy differences, and serious inefficiencies seem to characterize current Compact operations.

Chart excerpt from the DOJ study showing one year Transfer activity for Arizona and Montana.  We have homes in both states.

Chart excerpt from the DOJ study showing one year Transfer activity for Arizona and Montana. We have homes in both states.

Note that the percentage of transfer requests denied in a one year period works out to 37% for Arizona and 15% for Montana. The report does not indicate how many of those denials were for discretionary transfers.

Within a l-year period, state-level Compact offices nationally submitted more than 67,000 requests to transfer offenders to other jurisdictions. State Compact offices reported that they accepted 43,433 out-of-state cases for supervision during the same period.

Among the 28 states that track the outcomes of their requests for transfer, approximately 30 percent of transfer requests were denied….

2. Some states are too restrictive in accepting cases…Three agency administrators stated that some states are imposing formal laws or policies or creating informal barriers that deter transfers and thereby violate the guidelines and spirit of the Compact. Thirty-three (33) probation and parole field staff also noted this complaint, stating, for example, “Individual states [are] adding additional rules to the Compact or changing the definition of a resident.” A Compact administrator observed, “Receiving states need to recognize that interstate transfer is a right not a privilege.” Appendix D provides examples of laws and policies from two states that are contrary to the spirit of the Compact.

A parole agent from a midwestern state observed that some states “are very bad about denying appropriate cases requesting transfer….

Well, enough of that for now. I’ll get this in the mail to you tomorrow and respond to the rest of your letter by the day after….


Will Lynne “wake up and smell the coffee” when she reads what I’ve written? I don’t know. I do know that denial can be a powerful force. When we first began communicating with Karen nearly ten years ago, she was still a couple of years shy of the midpoint in her twenty year sentence. Understandably, she looked forward to the chance to make her case to the Parole Board. When I told her I’d checked the Georgia DOC site (Department of Corrections) and that it stated unequivocally that her sentence contained no parole option, she blew me off.

It was hard to blame her. Her own aunt had asked the staff at the facility where she was incarcerated, and sure enough, the aunt was told her niece would indeed be eligible for parole after serving ten years. Even worse, her own in-prison counselor told her the same thing. Obviously, add in her own wishes in the matter, and who ya gonna believe?

When the hard news smacked her in the face at that ten year point, it destroyed her for a while. For nearly three years, she dropped off our radar, refusing to write or call. In the end, she did take hold of herself, wrote us a letter… and the Universe had a great deal of mercy. She’d last known we were living in Colorado. Her letter was forwarded to us in Arizona one day before the forwarding ran out.

With Lynne, we can’t let that happen. If she continues to believe the impossible is possible until the last moment and is cast out into civilian society in Arkansas when she believed she’d be approved to go to Arizona, helping her get through that crushing disappointment will be a monumental task and then some. Alternatively, if Pam and I are wrong, if there is a way to get her parole transfer to Arizona approved, we definitely need to find out sooner rather than later.

Talk to us, people. We need to hear from you.

13 thoughts on “How to Get an Interstate Compact Parole Transfer from Arkansas to Arizona Approved…Or Not

  1. All I know about is Probation, and it is a pain. Even with family, it is hard to get approval for transfer. Finally got it done though.

  2. I am currently awaiting the response of a discretionary transfer. The paperwork has been in the local office of the receiving state for investigation for 16 days now. I am so nervous & its overwhelming because you’re not sure what kind of feelings you should feel about the transfer…should I be excited because i’m moving? Or should I be disappointed because its likely not to be accepted? Should I be packing or should I leave everything in its place? Will the investigating officer even look over my application & consider my case & base the decision on whats best for me OR will they not give a damn & deny it because they dont want more on their caseload? UGH.

  3. Becky: Yes, you did get it done, and from what I saw, the look on David’s face was worth it.
    Sarah: You’re EXACTLY the sort of reader this post was designed to reach. Please do stay in touch whether the outcome is positive or negative. In your single paragraph, you’ve pretty much touched on every aspect of the discretionary transfer scenario. And if you feel okay with eventually letting us know which states are involved, that would really be helpful, too. THANK YOU for commenting.

  4. I have spent months researching information & experiences on these interstate transfers, you could say it became a hobby…or an obsession lol. Even after all the websites I have read & re-read 10 times over, I STILL have no idea what to expect. I’ve asked questions on forums with little to no response so when I came across your site a few days ago, I decided that I would give you my experience because I know what its like to be in your shoes. Once I find out the outcome of my transfer, I will provide you with details.

  5. Thanks, Sarah. We couldn’t ask for more than that, and it IS appreciated. I’ve done a fair bit of online reading myself–not nearly as much as you have, no doubt, but still a fair bit–and agree totally: The sites out there really don’t tell anybody what to expect in any comprehensive way. Maybe (hopefully) this page will be an exception in a year or two, once it’s had time to mature and gather enough comments.

  6. I would just like to update that my discretionary transfer has been accepted!! I will give details at a later time.

  7. Congratulations, Sarah; good for you! We look forward to hearing the details, once the timing is right.

  8. Going to give the discretionary request a best effort try for a 25 year old, currently incarcerated in AZ, with the receiving state to be CA. I am not related by blood nor marriage, and he is, how did you put it an “other” This is a case where he has zero support in the state of AZ upon his release from prison. His father whom was also incarcerated died this year, his mother who had also been incarcerated, is not equip to support him. I have had an active relationship with his family for the last 6 years, attended the births of two children born to one of his brother (currently in jail), and took in the youngest brother for a year, and got him to complete his GED and earn a certificate in physical therapy. I am putting together my compelling argument/reasons being I am his best chance to succeed. I’m also hoping my 5 years as a volunteer and board member for a non-profit organization that works with the formally incarcerated for job readiness will help to show I have the resources available.
    Please give an update to your endeavor.

  9. Thanks, Jenny. We’ll do the update(s), but it sounds like you’re going to be way ahead of us on the timeline. Our inmate is working hard to rewire her brain so that she no longer unthinkingly racks up violations that keep her parole hearing dates moving back, but at this point we don’t know precisely when she’ll have her first shot at the Board. (Best estimate at this point is 2017, but that’s only an estimate.) In other words, we haven’t really begun our endeavor, so we don’t at this point have any updates to provide. She’s busy taking Life Skills courses to improve her thinking and her chances with the Board, but the timing is still “out there” somewhere.

    She had targeted 2016 originally, but slipped up several times and got her security classification moved in the wrong direction for a while.

    In the meantime, if you can find the time, we’d surely appreciate updates on your efforts as things progress, and thanks for commenting.

  10. I will post you the step by step results. This is an important topic that is not readily available for others. Thank you for starting the site!

  11. Thank you, Jenny. Somebody has to start a site to make things happen, of course, but it’s the ongoing reader input that makes or breaks the end result. Your step by step updates will be both invaluable and appreciated–by me for sure, and undoubtedly by others as well.

  12. 12/28/2015, had a call from Parole officer wanting to come out that day or next. Keep in mind that my inmate’s Interstate Compact (IC) request from AZ to CA was submitted two weeks prior. I had prepared a letter for him to submit with the doc’s that were compelling reasons for the transfer. This letter was in response to the “Interstate Compact Illegibility Guide” found on the IC website. I do not fit the “relative” requirement definition that IC provides, however it is clearly stated that compelling reasons can be also be submitted for the RECEIVING state, and that then makes the request DISCRETIONARY, instead of mandatory.
    The Parole officer had not received my letter, but instead the paperwork he received had me listed as a step-mother, which I am not. The paperwork is filled out by the CO3 at the prison. First lesson is that response can be quick and what the receiving state receives may not be accurate and may not contain all necessary items.
    Parole officer was here today for an hour and was very patient. The issue is that “discretionary” is not being understood to mean that “relative” does not have to be a controlling automatic disqualification. He is taking it to his supervisor to discuss.
    Another point I made is that The Federal Administration of Children and Families in 2010 defined the term “relative” to extend to “fictive kin”. Some states such as Illinois and Arkansas, defines fictive kin to mean a person not related to a child by blood or marriage, but who has a strong positive emotional tie to a child and has a positive role in the child’s life, such as a godparent, neighbor or family friend.
    I shall wait and see what happens next.

  13. Jenny, this new update of yours is huge; thank you very much for posting it. You’ve provided more concrete information in that single message than the total I’d unearthed earlier…or close to it. I’d not heard of the “fictive kin” term before; that’s absolutely fascinating.

    Looking forward to your next update.

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