Models of Parole Release Decisions

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Statutes have typically directed parole boards to base their decisions on one or more of these criteria's, the probability of recidivism, the welfare of society, the conduct of the offender while in the correctional institution, and lastly the effectiveness of the parole plan. Three models that guide the parole decision making have existed over time are, the surveillance model, the procedural justice model, and lastly the risk prediction model.

Early parole decisions were based not on formal policies, but on subjective intuition of individual decision makers. Parole decision making encountered a surveillance perspective, which was determined to be an attempt to control the dangerous classes. The surveillance approach was based on the theory that informal social controls, including positive family relations, coworkers, and friends, would help the offender by providing structure and enforcement of the rules. Parole boards considered primarily the seriousness of the crime in determining whether to release an inmate on parole. However, no consensus was reached on what constituted a serious crime. Instead, each member made their own decisions. The judgments were personal and therefore not subject to debate or reconsiderations. The courts agreed with the contentions of paroling authorities that to impose even minimal due process constraints on the decision process would interfere with their duty to engage in diagnosis and prognosis.

In the 1970's, given the concerns about discrepant decision making, there was a movement toward the use of objective guidelines in the release decision. Parole decisions were made more visible and parole authorities were accountable for their decisions through the use of explicit parole selection requirements. Known as the procedural justice or due process model, this perspective focused on fairness and emphasized on legal factors. Parole guidelines where established to make parole selection decisions more fair and consecutive.

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