In The Shawshank Redemption (1994) Red has three parole hearings. For the first two, in 1947 (YouTube link) and in 1957, he tells the parole board what he thinks they want to hear, and is unsuccessful. In his third in 1967 (YouTube link) he takes a different approach, saying, quoting from the IMDB quotes page:

1967 Parole Hearings Man: Ellis Boyd Redding, your files say you've served 40 years of a life sentence. Do you feel you've been rehabilitated?

Red: Rehabilitated? Well, now let me see. You know, I don't have any idea what that means.

1967 Parole Hearings Man: Well, it means that you're ready to rejoin society...

Red: I know what you think it means, sonny. To me it's just a made up word. A politician's word, so young fellas like yourself can wear a suit and a tie, and have a job. What do you really want to know? Am I sorry for what I did?

1967 Parole Hearings Man: Well, are you?

Red: There's not a day goes by I don't feel regret. Not because I'm in here, or because you think I should. I look back on the way I was then: a young, stupid kid who committed that terrible crime. I want to talk to him. I want to try and talk some sense to him, tell him the way things are. But I can't. That kid's long gone and this old man is all that's left. I got to live with that. Rehabilitated? It's just a bullshit word. So you go on and stamp your form, sonny, and stop wasting my time. Because to tell you the truth, I don't give a shit.

Red is then granted parole. Why, after this disparaging and weary speech? Was it because he was being so bluntly honest? Was intimidation a factor?

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    Thats the irony of the situation! All this while Red hoped he'd be let out on parole and approached the Parole Board with that demeanor. But at the end when he had given up on the thought of being let out on parole, hes let out!
    – Sayan
    Commented Dec 12, 2013 at 9:07
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    Well there are spoilers in your question for sure.
    – Firee
    Commented Mar 28, 2014 at 12:55
  • The words were takin from my mouth! Remorse and gratitude. Those are my only feelings!
    – user38542
    Commented Aug 1, 2016 at 12:40
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    Maybe the third was the only time he was lucky enough to get the first parole hearing after lunch? wired.com/2011/04/judges-mental-fatigue
    – stannius
    Commented Aug 1, 2016 at 15:12
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    In all the other hearings, he's carefully rehearsed what he thinks they want to hear, which they've probably heard canned versions of a thousand times. This time, despite his lashing out a bit at what they do, he expresses remorse, and his statements seem genuine instead of calculated. Plus he might be old enough that they don't think of him as dangerous, regardless. Commented Aug 19, 2016 at 17:07

11 Answers 11


I'm not sure if I'd agree with parts of Wbogacz answer. The Humility part specifically. I always got a more resigned vibe from Red.

He doesn't believe that the board will really grant his parole, and as such doesn't see the point in lying to them. He is honest, sincere and expresses true regret for his actions, rather than trying to convince the board that he's been "Rehabilitated" as he did in the prior attempts.

I don't think there was any intimidation either. If I recall the scene correctly, Red sat in a relaxed pose for the interview, not in a leaning forward threatening manner.

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    You're right--intimidation was probably the wrong word. He just seems a bit, I dunno, disrespectful?
    – Verge
    Commented Apr 20, 2012 at 1:20
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    It's also worth mentioning that the members of the final parole board seem to be notably younger than earlier iterations. I always saw this as a hint that ideas and policies about parole were changing, and that boards might have new criteria. But, overwhelmingly, the main reason is that Red's direct and blunt answer is self-certifying.
    – Tom
    Commented Oct 26, 2022 at 23:31

This is purely my opinion on parole, and may not be the opinion of the scene's author:

Parole is a play, acted out by two battle-weary combatants - the parolee who wants to get out his prison cell at all costs, and the bureaucrat who wants to get out of his prison cell at all costs, too. Remember prison confines those on both sides; the prisoner's walls are physical, the parole board's walls are mental or metaphysical. However, the bureaucrats understand that at the end of the day, they go home, and this is the only true superiority to the prospective parolee. To be superior is easy, to feel superior, they have to find some achnowledgment that there is still someone "below".

Red has finally come to understand this. He doesn't try placating the bureaucrat as he did in the first attempts with fake sincerity, but by demonstrating true humility to the board. He finally conveyed that he understood their superiority, though a weak position it truly is. His speech demonstrated that acceptance, and they could come to accept him as sincere.


In previous hearings, he seemed a bit cocky and not at all sorry for what he'd done. Therefore they judged that he needed more time in prison.

At the last hearing, he definitely had an air of penitence and he was truly sorry for what he had done. At this point, the panel recognised that the term he had served had served its purpose, he'd realised that what he'd done was wrong, and therefore they judged him ready for release.


I think Red finally got paroled because the parole board wanted to prove that parole does exist, and is not just a "made up B.S." word. Basically they showed him that there is integrity in the system. Another speech he could have made is "What is the point of these hearings? I already know how you are going to stamp the forms" Finally, this is a unique answer, which they have never heard before.

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    Ah, so they saw a chance of a man being rehabilitated but that lost his faith in the system. So they tried to reestablish that faith to make his rehabilitation complete (that would at least be my interpretation of your answer).
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented Jun 17, 2013 at 17:11

I think it's because for the first time he acts human.

Any animal will do exactly what you want them to do for a treat. But a human has respect for him or herself and character. They where not going to release a caged animal. They needed to see his humanity.


I think part of the reason is that the parole officer at that hearing is more humane than the ones before. At the start, he asks Red to "Please sit down" and not command him to "Sit!", or say nothing at all like the previous officers did. He also realizes that "rehabilitated" does not say a lot. Was Red really repentant for what he did? - is the better question. Red answers that quite eloquently. Which leads to the officer granting his parole.

So, there was a little bit of luck there. Red's run of luck continues further. His boss at the grocery store is kind and considerate as well (contrast this with Brooks Hatlen's boss who was quite harsh on the old man :-( ). Red gets a ride to Buxton from a good Samaritan. And he is lucky to find Andy's letter and the money to travel to Fort Hancock and hence to freedom.


My view has always been that he is now seen as honest, genuinely sorry, reflective and broken. Broken in the sense like a stray dog or a wild horse. Tamed, compliant, no longer a threat. He is institutionalised now, he no longer seeks or even want's freedom he just want's to go back to his cell.

The two previous parole hearings he was 'yes sir' 'no sir' 'never happen again sir' pleading to be let out. Now he is just a harmless old man who calls him a young fella and 'sonny' and insults his job and the system because he no longer cares what happens to him.

It is beautifully written and performed and my favourite scene from my favourite film.


Definitely not due to intimidation. Just the sheer humanity and realization that he regrets and understood the price he has paid (a lifetime) for his crime. He was no longer in denial or pretending to fit it. The board saw fit that he did enough time.

This scene is a great scene because Red would never attempt an escape. He needed to be granted parole to continue the long-shot of him and Andy continuing their friendship on the outside.

I love this movie. A move about perseverance. About survival. And about friendship. It's a classic, perfectly cast, perfectly directed.

No matter how many times I've seen it, I still get a lump in my throat at the end. Never fails. Just like Rudy. What other movies make us react this way?


I had pondered this question, too. I debated whether it may have just been a more compassionate parole board, or that he had convincingly shown remorse, but neither of those seemed to have any rationale or symbolism that would link it to the overall theme of the show -- i.e., Everything associated with Shawshank seems geared to take away or crush the human spirit.

A few examples from the movie designed to show this that I can think of off the top of my head would be: The resigned attitude of the prisoners to seeing 'Fat Ass' beaten to death. The scene where Andy's talking about music, puzzled that other prisoners don't seem to care about being reminded of life outside the prison walls. Red scolding Andy about how 'hope' is a dangerous thing to have on the inside. Brooks having lost all desire to ever leave Shawshank.

Thus, I concluded that Red's parole was intended to show a sort of irony -- that it was only after he had lost all hope, when it was obvious he felt he had nothing left worth fighting for and nothing to lose by remaining at Shawshank for the rest of his days -- that the parole board finally saw fit to release him.

After all, at each previous hearing, Red had been eager and hopeful, wanting to see the outside world and to rejoin the living once again. He still had a 'spark'. I took his approved parole to mean that only when they were satisfied that they'd succeeded in taking that away from him, did they finally grant him release.


I honestly think the third time he gets released because it's just a more progressively thinking decade. When he expressed his feelings in the first two hearings it was partly because the parole board was racist and partly because he had made it to Shawshank on his own and was serving time. Then after the two hearings, it's the 60s and he doesn't care: and neither do they, inside and outside things were changing.

I mean I think that's just a small part but that's a part of it. Stephen King was kind of a dick then.

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    I doubt racism was involved in the King's novella, because Red was Irish there, not black. Commented Jul 9, 2015 at 7:15
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    Uh, I followed you till the last sentence, but why is Stephen King a "dick" for writing it this way (if he did so)?
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented Jul 9, 2015 at 8:02
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    @chanandler the Irish were not considered the right kind of white before. Completely possible for racism to be a factor. Or that the adaptation added that as a factor.
    – cde
    Commented May 23, 2016 at 14:10
  • @ChanandlerBong You think people in the US weren't racist to Irish in that era? Oh you sweet summer child... Commented Oct 21, 2018 at 14:44
  • @Shadur I'm not saying that Irish were not treated badly, I only wrote that it's not racism, as they were not of a different race. Commented Oct 22, 2018 at 5:55

The cynical answer is that they wanted to get rid of an older convict, so they wouldn't have the burden of taking care of him.

Of course, the movie never explains the PB's rationale, so you're left to decide on your own.

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