Wednesday, October 23, 2019
Does Parole Work?
Does parole work? That is an important question as it relates to criminal justice and more specifically community corrections. How do we measure if parole is working? One way is to look at the recidivism rate of parolees. This policy paper will take an in depth look at this question. Also, this paper will study the current parole policy, my policy recommendations, and finally my conclusion of this problem. Parole is a very important tool for criminal justice in the United States of America. But does this tool work in reducing reoffending by released prisoners.Statement of the ProblemDoes parole work? One way to measure this by looking at recidivism rates by paroled prisoners who are released after serving their time. The proper question should be, does parole work in reducing recidivism rates? In the U.S. Justice System, parole is a thoughtfully used community correction option (Walker, 2015, p.288). One way to look at this is politically. The two sides are the right or Republicans and the left or Democrats. The right said that high-risk predators are let go into society and the left stated that release outcomes were based on less than scientific standards (Walker, 2015, p.288). The left's position was formed before sentencing guidelines were established (Walker, 2015, p.288). According to Samuel Walker, parole provided valuable tools to both inmates trying to get out and prison officials trying to get compliance from inmates. Parole was also a way to combat the ever-rising population in correction institutions (Walker, 2015, p.288). According to an Urban Institute study (2009) it queried, does parole work on reducing recidivism rates of released inmates? The answer after studying the statistics is it has little to no effect on re-offending or parole violations committed by former inmates (Walker, 2015, p.289). The Urban Institute study (2009) did not say the practice of releasing prisoners early or the idea of parole was a bad idea. However, they found there is no system of community corrections that performs better than another system (Walker, 2015, p.289). According to Christopher Zoukis (author and contributor for the Huffington Post), examining statistics of greater than 25,400 ex-prisoners released home-free or on community corrections during 2005 revealed 49.3% had been rearrested within eight years of release. The study included arrests for new crimes and for violating their conditions of parole. The ex-inmates that were released in 2005 included 31.7% that were convicted and 24.7% who were incarcerated again (https://www.huffingtonpost.com/christopher-zoukis/report-documents-us-recid_b_9542312.html). The re-arrest rates for released ex-inmates (52.5%) was greater than those released on probation (35.1%). According to the study, most released or paroled individuals committed new offenses within two years of their release at an average of 21 months (https://www.huffingtonpost.com/christopher-zoukis/report-documents-us-recid_b_9542312.html). Parole was meant to reintegrate prisoners back into society as productive members of society not as an opportunity to reoffend. This creates new victims and cost tax payers millions in the mechanizations of the criminal justice system (Zoukis, 2017).Current PolicyHere is the current United States Parole policy as follows: Federal prisoners serving a sentence of less than thirty years prior to November 1987 can apply for an initial parole hearing within 120 days of being incarcerated. This can happen through an application process for eligible prisoners (https://www.justice.gov/uspc/how-parole-works). According United States Department of Justice, D.C. Code offenders get a parole hearing sometime in the nine months before they become eligible for parole. The date is determined by the Bureau of Prisons. Inmates who get parole are given a date of release based on the parole release guidelines. These guidelines have been developed to make release decisions fair for all inmates giving credence to the system used (https://www.justice.gov/uspc/how-parole-works). Federal prisoners are entitled to interim hearings every eighteen to twenty-four months. The Parole Commission holds these hearings that are dependent upon the length of the prison term. During these hearings the Parole Commission must decide if there are enough positive or negative factors to legitimize changing the original release date (https://www.justice.gov/uspc/how-parole-works). D.C. A review is done before the release date of each inmate. This is done to assess the prisoner's record while incarcerated and they have met conditions of release (https://www.justice.gov/uspc/how-parole-works). Inmates are given a decision of their parole hearings by a Notice of Action. Federal inmates can appeal any parole decision if they feel that they have been treated unfairly by the Parole Commission. This appeal will trigger a subsequent review by the National Appeals Board (https://www.justice.gov/uspc/how-parole-works). According to the United States Department of Justice, prisoners of the federal system let out on parole or through mandatory release must report to their parole officer upon release. Paroled inmates must follow a set of rules set-up to aid in supervision and keep the public safe. D.C. offenders let go are supervised by the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (https://www.justice.gov/uspc/how-parole-works). If the parolee commits a new offense and/or violates the terms of their release, then the Parole Commission is contacted. The Parole Commission then puts out a warrant for the parolee's arrest and the parolee is picked up. Finally, a hearing is called to rule on the allegations and if the parolee is found in violation of their terms of parole, they may be returned to prison to serve out the rest of their prison sentence (https://www.justice.gov/uspc/how-parole-works). Why is the parole policy and procedures not alleviating the recidivism rates of offenders? The main problem is that parole makes certain assumptions or predictions when releasing offenders into community corrections. When it comes to parole, the United States Justice system has been trying to predict who will be successful on parole since the 1920's. Experts have tried out many formulas that attempt to predict what individuals will have success on parole. They hope these predicting formulas show who is ready to re-enter our society. These experts have had little success in predicting who is ready for release. The fact is that they are no closer today then they were in the 1920's (Walker, 2015, p.290). According to Samuel Walker, Martinson and McKenzie stated that only particular programs work for certain inmates. Matching these inmates to the program that works best for them is a shot in the dark. Even using risk prediction instruments, like in California, is no more efficient than other programs (Walker, 2015, p.290).Policy Recommendations/Action PlanMy policy recommendations are three-pronged. First, after the offender is released, the government should aid in employment. This would allow the offender to become a productive member of society and they would be able to earn a living. This would save the taxpayers millions by not having to pay for further incarceration. The next prong would be helping with housing for the first six months after release. Although this would cost the taxpayers, it would still be cheaper than housing them in prisons and the cost of all the procedures in the criminal justice system. Finally, therapy specific to an offender's needs would be beneficial for the offender and basically everyone in our society. This would help provide mental tools to aid in rehabilitation. The biggest hurdle to implementing my recommendations would be how do you pay for it? I believe this would also cause political problems. Providing funding for government programs usually does create political push back. I believe policy makers would be on board for employment and therapy. I do not believe they would support the housing.ConclusionDoes the United States parole policy work? When we release offenders on parole, is there a big difference in the recidivism rates versus that of offenders serving out their full term in prison? The answer is sadly no. The problem with all community corrections is that it creates a prediction problem. As we all know, predicting human behavior is at best fifty/fifty. I do believe the policy recommendations I made would help, but it is not one-hundred percent fool proof. It all comes down to free will and free choice.Works CitedUnited States Department of Justice. (2015). How Parole Works. Retrieved from https://www.justice.gov/uspc/how-parole- works.Walker, S. (2015). Sense and nonsense about crime, drugs and communities. Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning.Zoukis, C. (2017, December 6). Report Documents U.S. Recidivism Rates for Federal Prisoners. Huffington Post. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/christopher-zoukis/report-documents-us-recid_b_9542312.html.