According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), the term parole refers to criminal offenders who are released from prison prior to serving their full sentence in the community under predetermined conditions. The purpose of this proposal request is to implement the most successful elements of preexisting parolee programs and their success rates to aid in population control and preserve economic welfare. Within three years of an individual being released from prison, 67.5% of them will be arrested again, and more than half of them will be reincarcerated (The Urban Institute, 2008). The risk assessment of the parolee is based on the categorization of crime (violent/non-violent), psychological health based on a mental health assessment, education level indicative of societal productivity, and program compliance determined by a parole board and parole officers trending reports. Parole is a privilege that is granted to eligible and deserving inmates and not everyone meets these standards; so, it is important to consider these individuals on a case by case basis.
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Between 1980 and 2009, the state and federal prison population inflated about 400% and the crime rate dropped by 42% (Schrantz, Debor, Mauer, 2018). Emphasizing the importance of community engagement, finding alternatives to incarceration, and intervening with “at-risk youth to disrupt [the] school to prison pipeline,” has demonstrated a significantly positive relation with the reintroduction of an imprisoned individual into society (Schrants, et. al, 2018). BOP Statistics demonstrates the top three criminal categories of May 2019 are drug offenses, weaponry, and sex offenses which were observed at 45.4%, 18.6%, and 9.9% respectively (2019). By conducting a case by case risk assessment, and providing access to adequate resources at the start of the individual’s prison sentence, recidivism rates decline. One of the largest issues with the current parole system is the stigma around mental health and behaviors; it seems the severity of punishment takes precedence over the quality of treatment. My approach within a new and improved system would be to allow inmates the right to parole, but also provide them with the tools to ensure a seamless transition as possible. Anytime predetermined guidelines and conditions are violated, parolees would be immediately met with consequences which includes but is not limited to rearrest or reincarceration. The severity of the punishment is dependant upon the severity of the offense.
Experiments have been conducted in different states and the results have been nothing less than dramatic. The problem that they have run into though is realizing that attempting to organize various public agencies to be able to enforce time-friendly and direct consequences is a larger task than getting the freed inmates to comply with the rules and regulations set in place once they have been established.
According to John Gremlich, in an article dedicated to crime rates throughout the United States, has shown that our rates of crime have fallen by nearly half since the time of the 1990’s, but even though we have seen a decrease since then, we still are much higher than our levels of crime were back in the 1950’s (2019). While our crime rates have decreased by a large amount, the rate of incarceration in the United States inevitably continues to grow. With the number of incarcerations always growing, this means that more inmates will be imprisoned causing an overpopulation and prisons have no choice but to resort to releasing some of the inmates prior to end of their sentence because of budget limitations.
While the number of prisoners that are released on parole will continue to be a number that grows, a lot of these prisoners live’s won’t be in the best of conditions once they are released. In order to prove effectiveness, “re-entry programs must work to facilitate more interaction between former inmates and potential role models in their new neighborhoods” (Kirchner, 2017). Released offenders often do not have a place to go and in turn, result to homelessness. Often, it is difficult for parolees to qualify for a spot in the overcrowded shelters, and some shelters would not even accept parolees. A lot of them fall under the spell of drugs and alcohol, and ultimately in most cases these released prisoners will find themselves back in the system somehow. In a research project titled Safer Return, researchers studied a re-entry program in Chicago’s Garfield Park neighborhood over the course of a 5 year study. The study found that “prisoners and prisoners’ families who were frequently ill-prepared for the transition from incarceration to home life, with the emotional and logistical complications it would bring. State, county, and city agencies were also failing in their job of coordinating and delivering whatever services those former prisoners needed most. Finally, on the community level, entire neighborhoods were unable to meet the complex needs of returning individuals,” (Kirchner, 2017). Essentially, the overall goal of the program would be to not only properly prepare the offender for his or her reentry to the community, but to properly prepare the community to accept offenders back in with open arms. Although the study caused tension within the members of the community, “fewer parolees returned to prison during the program’s run” (Kirchner, 2017). Therefor, in my program for Parole in the United States, I would approach the offender’s family and community with plans to reintegrate these offenders in a way that would have positive effects on the released offender, as well as preserve a sense of safety for the community at hand.
Another issue lies in the lack of data and analysis of parole supervision in order to help improve and uplift the lives of these released inmates and the communities that they return to. The number of inmates released on parole who’s conditions and behaviors have worsened post-release speaks magnitudes of the supervision they are under. Not only do these parolee supervisors do a terrible job of controlling the behaviors of their assigned inmates, their lack of care for their inmates steadily continues to contribute to the problem that we have with prison-crowding when their inmates end up returning back to prison, where they were originally set free from due to overcrowding in the first place. It is a vicious cycle that ultimately complicates the task at hand, which should be reducing the number of inmates we have in holding. It is harder to convince people that there are large numbers of inmates that deserve to be released from prison when the minute that they are released from prison, they are hit with hardship after hardship that lands them back in prison after they were already released.
My goal with the program is to ensure that the people in charge of their parolees are trained and efficient in making sure that their inmates understand the severity of recidivism entails and also ensuring that they are not set up for failure. Ensuring that they know where they can apply for jobs, or shelter, or staying on top of them to ensure that they don’t relapse, which is, in fact, a job of theirs. It starts from the second these inmates are released. IF the people in charge of keeping their lives on a straight line track are trained to efficiently execute, this will definitely do its part in making sure at least some of the people that are released on parole don’t find themselves back in the system. It’s a chain reaction from that point because if the parolees aren’t landing themselves back in prison, that doesn’t halt the overpopulation problem, but it definitely does something in aiding the fight to get these prisons from being so overpopulated.
Providing parole officers with better training so they are better equipped to deal with their parolees and their behaviors is an effective tactic on the state level. In Hawaii, probation officers were more effectively trained than the average United States Parole Officer. While they did receive better training, they still found themselves dealing with a lot of the same situations that other parole officers deal with. One of these problems being the fact that they found themselves overwhelmed by the number of parolees that displayed no regard to the protocols set forth. In a study conducted consisting of 100 parolees who were ordered to meet with their probationary officers for drug screening, ten percent would fail to appear and twenty percent failed to pass the screening for at least one illicit substance (Kleiman, 2015). The same study also demonstrated that parolees were incapable of abstaining from drug use long enough to pass a drug screening even when they were given ample notice. Those ordered to outpatient drug rehabilitation facilities did not always complete the programs (Kleiman, 2015).
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According to the state of Hawaii’s Parole program, a convicted offender an offender is committed to a correctional institution, the Hawaii Paroling Authority will meet with the inmate within six months, where eligibility for parole will be decided. It is important to note that a tentative parole date does not necessarily guarantee privileges, and inmate behavior is continued to be monitored by authorities, until a final determination has been made. In 2006, Hawaii set forth a program called HOPE: Hawaii’s Opportunity Probation with Enforcement introduced by Judge and former Hawaiian US Attorney, Steven Alm. After long negotiations with the police department, and with local jails, and after getting all of the necessary permissions to pilot such a project, it was presented to these people that moving forward any time an appointment was missed or even showed up late for, and every drug test that didn’t come back absolutely clean would lead to an immediate trip back to jail, and the duration of the stay could be anywhere from a few days to a few weeks at most. The main idea behind this new principle was that is a parolee who for example, gave a dirty urine sample the day of their test, would find themselves sitting in a cell by the end of the day. Violations that weighed heavier would be punishable by more time, which leads the parolees to make a decision as to whether or not they’d just like to behave and act as normal citizens or risk going back to jail indefinitely. Evidence showed that “participants in a year-long pilot program in Hawaii were 50 percent less likely to be arrested for a new crime and 70 percent less likely to use drugs” (Kornell, 2013). This is an example of a policy that I would include in my new Parole program, in order to make Parole more effective.
Another issue released offenders face when re-entering society is the ability to have immediate access to drugs because “substance use and crime/recidivism are irrevocably linked” (Fearn & Vaughn, 2016). Substance abusing parolees are common because drugs are accessible outside of prison walls, as opposed to behind bars where drugs are far less common. Without proper rehabilitation programs and effective monitoring, it is possible that offenders will result to old habits from prior to conviction. In the United States, “parolees have high prevalence rates across all [Substance Use Disorders] categories and these trends have been relatively constant”, therefore it is necessary that more effective rehabilitative policies are set forth in order to prevent recidivism and improve the safety of the community (Fearn & Vaughn, 2016). In a study conducted by Stacey Tobin of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, showed that “prisoners who received methadone maintenance treatment during incarceration were more likely than prisoners who did not receive methadone maintenance treatment to engage in the treatment after being released”. (Tobin, 2019) Therefor, the rehabilitation process should begin prior to release, while offenders with substance abuse disorders are incarcerated. After release, parole officers ought to be properly trained to not only detect drug abuse, but to have responsibility for positive counseling and monitoring to ensure that the parolee is not participating in drug use or criminal activity. In my program, not only will I request more funding for rehabilitation programs for both incarcerated and released offenders, but I will require that parole officers be better trained to detect and prevent drug abuse amongst parolees.
The more that our parole systems develops here in the United States, the ability to effectively influence those who disregard their parole laws is increased, which helps prevent these released inmates from making the same mistakes upon release because they realize that their actions are punishable right immediately. There’s no week, even month-long period of awaiting trial to continue to participate in further criminal activity before your sentence, which is something that should be implemented country-wide. The more seriously being on parole is taken and understanding that it is a privilege instead of a right, the more parole will become a truly effective program to actually being arrested and the comparison between crime rates and incarceration rates would drop tremendously similarly to how it proved to have work in Hawaii’s HOPE program.
In conclusion, it is apparent that in the the United States there are several issues with our parole system. Offenders are being released with little to no resources in order to assimilate back into communities, which causes them to result to the same criminal activity that originally lead them into the prison system. While those who are deserving to spend time behind bars, we have acknowledged the fact that we are dealing with an overpopulation crisis that isn’t getting any better on its own. My hopes with this program is that the United States Parole System will prove to be effective for both the released offender and the community as a whole. Over the course of the next 10 years, this program shall decrease recidivism, rehabilitate released offenders, increase positive reentry into communities for released offenders, and provide adequate training for prison guards and parole officers.
- Decarceration Strategies: How 5 States Achieved Substantial Prison Population Reductions. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.sentencingproject.org/publications/decarceration-strategies-5-states-achieved-substantial-prison-population-reductions/#II. Connecticut
- Fearn, N. E., Vaughn, M. G., Nelson, E. J., Salas-Wright, C. P., DeLisi, M., & Qian, Z. (2016, October 01). Trends and correlates of substance use disorders among probationers and parolees in the United States 2002-2014. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5037016/
- Gramlich, J., & Gramlich, J. (2019, January 03). 5 facts about crime in the U.S. Retrieved from https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/01/03/5-facts-about-crime-in-the-u-s/ Hawaii Parole. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.governmentregistry.org/criminal_records/parole/state_parole/hawaii_parole.html
- Kirchner, L. (2015, August 13). The Importance of Community Support for Prisoner Re-Entry Programs. Retrieved from https://psmag.com/social-justice/the-importance-of-community-support-for-prisoner-re-entry-programs
- Kleiman, M. A., & Hawken, A. (2015, May 15). Fixing the Parole System. Retrieved from https://issues.org/kleiman/
- Kornell, S., & Kornell, S. (2013, June 05). Parole That Pleases Conservatives, Liberals, and Prisoners. Retrieved from https://slate.com/technology/2013/06/hawaii-hope-probation-program-reduces-crime-drug-use-and-time-in-prison.html
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019, April 04). Methadone Maintenance Treatment During Incarceration Has Long-Term Benefits. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/news-events/nida-notes/2019/04/methadone-maintenance-treatment-during-incarceration-has-long-term-benefits
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