The Role of Parole in Criminal Justice
April 25, 2011
The Role of Parole in Criminal Justice
What is parole and why are we interested in something that most Americans have little knowledge of? Does the American society understand what parole is or do they assume that parolees fit the general criminal stereotype? Is this a system even something that is worth the time invested or are we “beating a dead horse” by continuing it? *
The history of parole goes back as far as the state of NY in 1817 when they created a system of “good time law”. In 1876, New York State passed a law that created a system of "indeterminate" sentences that set a minimum and maximum term and permitted parole release of those who had served their minimum sentence. The prisoners selected by prison officials for parole were required to report monthly to citizen volunteers known as Guardians (History of Parole, n.d.). I recently had the privilege of interviewing Parole Officer Kristina Vessar from the Missouri Department of Corrections District 5 in a past class about the pros, cons, ins and outs of the parole system. According to her (personal interview, February 18, 2011) the parole system is used as “a dangling carrot” for incarcerated offenders. If they behave, meet the parole board’s requirements and show that they have been rehabilitated they have a chance at parole. If they in some way do not show that they are willing to become a productive member of society by bettering themselves and showing that they have changed; they lose that chance of supervised freedom. The Parole system has been put in place by the government to encourage good behavior for incarcerated offenders and to give them a chance at freedom. In our textbook we studied the crime triangle and how it shows the 3 things necessary for crimes to be committed. (Champion, 2007, page 420) Parole in a sense takes care of one side of the triangle and in some cases partially takes care of a second side as well. By taking out one side of the crime triangle we reduce the risk of crimes being committed by paroled offenders.
The side parole takes care of is the Handler and Offender side. The Handler or parole officer is in charge of making sure that the Offender is staying productive and making sure that they meet the requirements of their parole like getting a job or substituting it by getting an education or job training. The parole officer is an active part in the offender’s life and is there to keep them out of trouble.
There are cases where the parole system is actually helping the second side of the triangle; these are cases of sex offenders. The second side of the triangle is the Manager and Place side. In this case the Manager is not the owner or manager of a certain location; it is their Parole Officer. In the case of sex offenders they are required by their parole to stay out of certain areas. Often these areas are areas where children congregate like parks, schools, and day cares. The Parole Officer ensures that the Offender does not reside within the set limits of those locations, thereby reducing the amount of temptation that the Offender has to re-offend. Is the Parole system a cost effective system? According to a 1994 L.A. Times interview done with a parole officer, it costs the taxpayers 20,000 dollars per year to incarcerate someone. It only costs about 2,500 dollars per year to keep someone on parole that means that if the parole system were abolished, the penal system would end up costing the state at least 8 times more annually! (Valley Interview, 1994) That interview was in 1994, and that was the cost then! In 2008, according to an OLR Research Report, the total cost of housing an incarcerated offender for one year in Connecticut is $44,165.00 (Cost of incarceration and cost of a career criminal, 2008). *
According to Officer Vessar (personal interview, February 18, 2011) the cost of keeping a...
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