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Does Parole Supervision Work?

Research Findings and Policy Opportunities

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Document date: March 15, 2006
Released online: March 15, 2006

The nonpartisan Urban Institute publishes studies, reports, and books on timely topics worthy of public consideration. The views expressed are those of the authors and should not be attributed to the Urban Institute, its trustees, or its funders.

Note: This report is available in its entirety in the Portable Document Format (PDF).

The text below is a portion of the complete document.


This article is posted with permission from the American Probation and Parole Association (Perspectives, Spring 2006, Vol. 30, No. 2).

Introduction

My first real job was in a parole office — "field supervision unit" as they called it. As a VISTA Volunteer developing transition programs for prisoners reentering the free world, I saw firsthand the complexities of reentry and the parole officer's role in the process. I learned immensely from my parole and treatment staff colleagues. I was constantly impressed with their ability to both sanction and encourage parolees, particularly in the face of high caseloads and limited time, tools and resources. It was also apparent, however, in my office — as around the country — that parole officers were driven by making their contacts and monitoring compliance with the many conditions of release. The ultimate goal — preventing reoffending, breaking substance abuse habits, and, in the end, changing parolees' lives for the better — was often more elusive.

This job was an important, inspiring work experience for me, cementing my long-term interest in criminal justice policy and, specifically, the issue of prisoner reentry. Over the past 15 years I have changed hats, moving from practitioner to researcher. The study, entitled, Does Parole Work? Analyzing the Impact of Postprison Supervision on Rearrest Outcomes,1 describes a recent attempt to assess the impact of parole supervision on recidivism. This article begins with an argument for why we should study supervision, followed by an overview of the research. It concludes with some thoughts about policy opportunities for the field, arguing that the current focus on prisoner reentry provides a timely opportunity to "reinvent" parole.

Notes from this section of the report

1 Does Parole Work? Analyzing the Impact of Postprison Supervision on Rearrest Outcomes is available in full at http://www.urban.org/url.cfm?ID=311156. For a copy of the technical report, please contact the authors directly.

Note: This report is available in its entirety in the Portable Document Format (PDF).



Topics/Tags: | Crime/Justice


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