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April 3, 2005

New report on parole from Urban Institute

The Urban Institute, a nonpartisan economic and social policy research organization, has recently produced this interesting new report entitled "Does Parole Work?  Analyzing the Impact of Postprison Supervision on Rearrest Outcomes."  This important report serves as a reminder that, though parole has been eliminated in the federal system and in some states, parole remains a integral component of many modern sentencing systems. 

Based on the report's key findings, it is dangerously easy to conclude that parole does not work.  But the full report really has a nuanced set of messages and conclusions, and it also readily concedes "several limitations to [the] data."  And the report's research highlights provide another reason for sentencing policy-makers to distinguish between first-time, non-violent offenders and repeat, violent offenders (a point I stressed in my February USSC testimony).

Here are the research highlights taken directly from the Urban Institute's parole report:

  • Overall, parole supervision has little effect on rearrest rates of released prisoners.  Mandatory parolees, who account for the largest share of released prisoners, fare no better on supervision than similar prisoners released without supervision. In fact, in some cases they fare worse. While discretionary parolees are less likely to be rearrested, this difference narrows (to 4 percentage points) after taking into account personal characteristics and criminal histories.

  • Certain prisoners benefit more from supervision — especially discretionary release to supervision — than others.  For example, females, individuals with few prior arrests, public order offenders, and technical violators are less likely to be rearrested if supervised after prison.  Persons with a combination of these characteristics, representing relatively low-level offenders, exhibit even lower rearrest rates if supervised.  Conversely, supervision does not improve rearrest outcomes for some of the higher rate, more serious offenders.

  • Of the largest groups of released prisoners — male drug, property, and violent offenders — only property offenders released to discretionary parole benefit from supervision. Violent offenders released to supervision are no less likely to be rearrested than their unsupervised counterparts.  For male drug offenders, mandatory release to supervision predicts higher rearrest rates than for unconditional releasees or discretionary parolees.

April 3, 2005 at 06:49 PM | Permalink


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