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Should parole release be abolished? Essay

Well lets start by learning what parole is and how it came about. What is Parole?

Parole, in criminal law, pledge of good conduct given by a person convicted of crime as a condition of release from imprisonment before the expiration of the term of confinement. The word parole is also broadly used to denote such a conditional release or period of liberty. Parole is usually granted to a prisoner in recognition of past good conduct, both in prison and earlier. A sentenced criminal may be released on parole before the maximum limit of the prison term has been reached, either on the expiration of the minimum term or of some other shorter term fixed by statute on condition of good behavior.

The release in such case is not an absolute discharge, such as that received as a matter of right on the expiration of the full term, but is conditional on the due performance of the parolee’s pledge. During the same parole period the parolee is required to report from time to time to prison authorities or to a parole agent or parole officer to whose custody he or she was assigned when released. Other stipulations of parole include avoiding association with known criminals and remaining within a certain locality. For a violation of parole within the time limit, the parolee is liable to be apprehended and returned to prison to serve out the full or maximum term.

When someone is paroled, they serve part of their sentence under the supervision of their community. The law says that the U.S. Parole Commission may grant parole if (a) the inmate has substantially observed the rules of the institution; (b) release would not depreciate the seriousness of the offense or promote disrespect for the law; and (c) release would not jeopardize the public welfare.

Parole has a three-fold purpose: (1) through the assistance of the United StatesProbation Officer, a parolee may obtain help with problems concerning employment, residence, finances, or other personal problems which often trouble a person trying to adjust to life upon release from prison; (2) parole protects society because it helps former prisoners get established in the community and thus prevents many situations in which they might commit a new offense; and (3) parole prevents needless imprisonment of those who are not likely to commit further crime and who meet the criteria for parole. While in the community, supervision will be oriented toward reintegrating the offender as a productive member of society.

How does the Commission determine if someone is eligible for Parole?

A criminal offender becomes eligible for parole according to the type of sentence received from the court. The “parole eligibility date” is the earliest time the offender might be paroled. If the Parole Commission decides to grant parole, it will set the date of release, but the date must be on or after the “eligibility” date.

The process begins at sentencing. Unless the court has specified a minimum time for the offender to serve, or has imposed an “indeterminate” type of sentence, parole eligibility occurs upon completion of one-third of the term. If an offender is serving a life sentence or a term or terms of 30 years or more he or she will become eligible for parole after 10 years.

The rationale behind parole is that it is something that can be held out to the offender as a reward for good behavior while they are in prison. This assumes that all offenders are rational agents, that is, they can weigh up the pros and cons of various courses of action and make a logical decision as a result. This in many cases is actually a sound assumption – in which case it also can be inferred that longer sentences will act as a strong deterrent, something that many politically correct liberals would deny. They can’t have it both ways. Those that cannot be deterred are going to be too irrational and dangerous to release on parole or otherwise.

Another underlying assumption is that all of us are basically good, and that it is possible to rehabilitate offenders.

A considerable proportion of offenders (as many as 50% of violent offenders) are psychopathic, and their behavior cannot be significantly altered in the long or even short term by anything, let alone the promise of parole. Some offenders may be rational – but also psychopathic.

We should never offer such offenders parole – as they WILL re-offend. Others may not be rational, and although we may not be able to deter them, there is no sense in trying to change their behavior by offering the opportunity of parole either. There is an extremely good reason for keeping such offenders imprisoned along with the rational psychopaths – it prevents them re-offending. This leaves those offenders that are rational but not psychopathic – likely to be a minority of violent offenders.

There is another reason that some people believe that parole is undesirable, and that is that it undermines the authority of judges, in which I totally agree with. The length of a sentence served should be set by the judge in the case – not by the parole board, some years after the event. This would also have the advantage that the length of a sentence will be far clearer to the public, and it will be easier for us all to make an assessment of what sort of sentences are being handed down.

Discretionary parole decisions are based on a number of factors that weigh the need for punishment, successful community reintegration and victim and community restoration. These factors include the nature of the crime; the offender’s criminal history, behavior in prison, social background and risk posed to the community; and information from crime victims and affected communities. Discretionary parole decisions enhance public safety by working to keep dangerous offenders incarcerated and that other offenders carefully selected for release receive the necessary structure and assistance to become law-abiding citizens in the community in which they reside.

During periods when there are an inadequate number of correctional beds, parole boards apply a rational process, targeting for release those inmates who pose the least risk to community safety. Parole boards are the only component of the criminal justice system that can weigh all of the factors and release only those offenders who can be best managed under community supervision, thus providing a powerful enhancement to public safety.

The core services offered by parole – investigations, victim advocacy, release planning, community supervision, immediate response to violations, and treatment services – provide optimum public protection. Parole is a powerful partner to both the courts and to victims. Parole boards ensure that the victim’s voice is both heard and heeded, creating a natural and valuable ally for victims and victim advocacy groups.

What happens at a parole hearing?

A parole hearing is an opportunity for the offender to present his or her side of the story, and express their own thoughts as to why they feel they should be paroled. Many subjects come up during the course of the hearing. These typically include the details of the offense, prior criminal history, the guidelines which the Commission uses in making their determination, the offender’s accomplishments in the correctional facility, details of a release plan, and any problems the offender has had to meet in the past and is likely to face again in the future.

The Commission is interested in both the public safety as well as the needs of the individual.

How do any of the following situations affect parole?

A. Institution misconduct. The prisoner is expected to observe the rules of the institution in which confined to be eligible for parole. Misconduct resulting in forfeited or withheld good time indicates that institution rules have not been observed and is a poor argument for parole, but does not automatically disqualify the applicant from Commission consideration.

B. Presence of a detainer. A detainer does not of itself constitute a basis to deny parole. A prisoner may be paroled to a detainer indicating an actual release to the custody of another jurisdiction. If the detainer is dropped, the parole will occur, with an approved plan, directly to the community. In some circumstances, parole may be to the detainer only and if the detainer is dropped, further action regarding parole will not occur, pending additional review by the Commission.

C. Alien subject to deportation. In some cases, the Commission grants parole on condition that the alien be deported and remain outside the United States. In other cases, the Commission merely grants parole to an immigration detainer. In such instances the individual does not leave the institution until the immigration officials are ready to receive him.

D. Case in court on appeal. All persons have the right by law to appeal their conviction and sentence. The Parole Commission recognizes this right and the existence of a court appeal has no bearing whatever on parole decisions.

Take a look at this site I found , http://www.usdoj.gov/uspc/release.htm , this seems to be very informative. http://www.usdoj.gov/uspc/mission.htm , http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/ppus00.pdf ,

Those in favor of parole say:

– Parole is advantageous to the offender, to the state, and to society as a whole for a number of reasons. The offender has the benefit of a shorter time behind bars and a period of time under supervision to adjust to life “on the outside” while still having access to certain support services. Parole helps reconnect the offender with family relationships sooner; less harm is done to the family structure, reducing the social cost of family breakdown. There is also a reduced risk of criminal socialization which can occur in prison. The correctional facility uses the enticement of “good time” to induce prisoners to participate in programs and maintain good behavior while in prison.

Without this inducement, maintaining order in the state’s overcrowded prisons would be more difficult. It is also far less expensive for the individual to be on parole rather than behind bars. (The parolee must now pay a monthly supervision fee of $30, reducing costs to the state still further). Overcrowding in prisons is also eased. The monitoring of individuals on parole allows a measure of control and safety for the community while permitting the PO to evaluate whether a parolee is adjusting successfully to life on the outside. A person with the opportunity to adjust gradually to life outside prison poses less danger to society than one who walks out the prison door unprepared.

Those opposed to parole say:

When an offender is released early on parole, the full measure of punishment intended by society has not been carried out. Parole release can be seen as dishonest because a person does not serve his/her full sentence. In some cases the balance of justice is disturbed because some offenders are released on parole, while others who may have committed lesser crimes are not. There is always a risk to the community that the individual will reoffend while on parole. An accurate assessment of the danger posed by an offender is beyond the capability of the system. In addition, parole release results in increased costs to the local community due to the cost of services provided to parolees. (The cost of prison time, on the other hand, is covered by the state.)

Abolishing parole

A movement to abolish parole has been sweeping the nation. Certain high-profile crimes committed by people recently released from prison have spurred a movement based on the idea that they should have been kept behind bars. Eleven states have already eliminated parole on the theory that this will be tougher on criminals, forcing them to complete longer sentences. Another four did away with parole and then reinstated it when they found that it did not lengthen prison sentences because the prisons became so overcrowded that other inmates had to be released. In many states where parole has been abolished, costs have skyrocketed, prison populations have grown out of control, and violent and dangerous offenders have been routinely released without supervision.

Abolishing parole means no supervision in the community after release.

Some high-profile crimes by ex-prisoners have been committed by those who were released directly into the community without parole supervision. A well-known case is that of Polly Klaas, who was murdered in a state that had abolished parole and instituted an automatic release program for all offenders, without supervision.

There are many possible explanations for parole’s persistence. One is that in states that have eliminated parole, there has been little impact on public safety. Crime is no less common or less serious in those states.

About a third of all inmates are returned to prison for a new crime within three to five years of release. That’s not the two-thirds failure rate that most people assume, but it is no different with or without parole release. Supervision does tend to postpone reoffending. Other than that, about the only documented advantage of eliminating parole is that prisoners have a better idea of when they’ll be released.

But it’s not just that the research doesn’t justify eliminating parole. The argument for elimination has some serious flaws of its own. Clearly, every parolee who commits a new crime is a failure. But the fact remains that almost everyone convicted of crimes and sent to prison will be released back into society. The crimes committed by an ex-con who is not on parole are just as serious as those committee by a parolee. Eliminating parole won’t eliminate the crimes of ex-cons.

All in all, this policy discussion can easily be seen as much ado about nothing. Parole or no parole: there is not likely to be a big difference when it comes to crime.

But something important is at stake. It is something easily overlooked when we focus only on recidivism rates, or even on the pain suffered by crime victims. What is at stake is how we think about justice and what kind of society we want to be part of.

Are we bound together by our fears and by our need to punish and exclude? Or are we bound together by our hope for community, by our hope for rehabilitation and reconciliation?

What is at stake is what the progressive reformers thought was important when they introduced the idea of parole at the turn of the century.

Parole assures that we retain some discretion to decide a convict’s fate long after the heat of the crime and trial have passed, when there is time to consider remorse and reform. Parole holds open the possibility that offenders can turn their lives around and free themselves from prison and from their past.

That means that parole offers more than the mere possibility of early release. Parole holds open the possibility for reconciliation and for healing. For the convict, parole holds open the possibility of redemption. For the rest of us, parole holds open the possibility of forgiveness.

Perhaps few seek redemption in prison and still fewer find it. That may be the harsh reality. But it would be a far harsher reality for all of us if redemption were never possible, and if society could never forgive. Therefore I don’t think that parole should be abolished, because some offenders really do reform themselves and deserve the chance to show that, and if parole where abolished then those that don’t commit serious offenses, or just plain make a stupid mistake and have learned from it by reformming themsleves while serving time in a correctional institute would never have the chance to get out early.


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