1 - April - 2013
Parole In Society
Last year, 77% of prisoners released from incarceration were released through and in to a system of community and authoritative supervision called parole. Parole is the conditional release from confinement of a person serving an indeterminate sentence (Corrections Today, page 262) and it is an idea which has had a huge impact on the justice system and the workings of the U.S. Department of Corrections as we now know it.
The concept of parole can be traced back to the works of Alexander Maconochie. Maconochie was the superintendent of a penal colony on Norfolk Island, Australia. In his work, Maconochie utilized a system through which good behavior was encouraged through the use of ‘marks’. Prisoners served their sentence in three stages of progressively increasing responsibility. Prisoners advanced through the first two stages through labor, studies and good behavior. They would then be released into the outside world under the condition that disobeying the law would result in reincarceration. Walter Crofton adopted Maconochie’s ideas as the basis for the ‘Irish mark system’ which made permissible the early release of prisoners with a record of good behavior. This mark system was instituted at the Elmira reformatory in the 1870s and from there went on to spread rapidly throughout the United States justice system. Today, around 77% of inmates that are released from prison do so through the parole system or some very similar form of community supervision. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, at the end of 2011 there were 853,900 adults on parole and around 1.1 million adults that had moved on to or off of parole over the course of the year.
The main goal of parole is to supervise the reintegration of inmates back into society and encourage their rehabilitation towards becoming a more productive member of society. There are three different purposes of the institution of parole: to help the parolee obtain help for problems with employment, residency, finance, and any other personal troubles that may interfere with a prisoner’s reintegration into everyday life; to make society safer by preventing situations in which prior offenders might commit a new offense; and also to prevent the needless imprisonment of those not likely to commit further crime (Parole FAQ’s). Parole is often confused with probation, though they are distinctly different. Probation is used as an alternative to incarceration in which the offender receives state supervision whilst still living a mostly normal life, whereas with parole, an offender serves most of their sentence in a reformatory and pending good behavior, is then released to serve the remainder in the community (under state supervision).
There are several rules and guidelines used to determine eligibility for parole that must first be met by an inmate. Eligibility for parole depends on the type of sentence assigned by the court. Accompanying an offender’s sentencing is a ‘parole eligibility date’. This is the earliest potential date upon which an offender may be released in the instance that the parole commission finds them suitable for release. Unless the court specifies a minimum amount of time that an inmate must serve or said offender is serving an indeterminate sentence, an inmate becomes eligible for parole after completion of one third of their court-mandated sentence. To apply for consideration, an inmate must fill out a parole application furnished by a case manager. The case manager then informs the potential parolee of his parole hearing date. This date generally occurs within a few months of placement in the respective institution, except in cases where the offender is serving more than ten years time. In this instance, ‘the initial hearing is scheduled six months prior to the completion of ten years. At this parole hearing, the offender receives an opportunity to present their side of the story and to offer their...