Contrary to prevailing images of the Georgia prison system as a hell from which there were few means of escape, parole offered prisoners an avenue for early release. Although such schemes favoured whites, African Americans were also the beneficiaries of this system. By the 1930s, over a thousand African Georgians were released each year. This article explores the complex social and cultural dynamics that framed the exercise of mercy for African American prisoners Parole represented a major technique for the regulation of justice but also a crucial mechanism for the ethic and practice of paternalism. It supported older forms of economic organisation and social relations in the `New South'.