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In 2007, the Urban Institute convened two meetings with national experts on the topic of parole supervision. The goal of the meetings was to articulate participants’ collective best thinking on parole supervision, violation, and revocation practices and to identify policies and strategies that would help policymakers and practitioners improve public safety and make the best use of taxpayer dollars. This paper, the result of those meetings and a review of the research literature, describes 13 key strategies to enhance reentry outcomes along with examples from the field. A companion Brief, published by Pew Charitable Trusts, is available at http://www.urban.org/url.cfm?ID=411800.
Over the past 35 years, incarceration rates in the
United States have grown to unprecedented
levels and continue to climb. According to a report from the Pew Center on the States
(Public Safety Performance Project 2008), more than one in one hundred adults are
currently incarcerated in prison or jail. Correspondingly, prisons are releasing record
numbers of people each year. In fact, more than 700,000 people were released from
state and federal prison in 2006 (Sabol and Couture 2008). The majority, nearly
500,000, are released to parole supervision via mandatory or discretionary release
(Glaze and Bonczar 2007). The parole population is now at an all-time high of more
than 780,000, a four-fold increase from 1980 (Glaze and Bonczar 2007; Hughes, Wilson,
and Beck 2001).
As ever-larger numbers of people serve their time and return to the community, parole
supervision agencies can play a critical role in the promotion of community safety, successful
reintegration, and individual accountability. Community supervision strategies
that help improve outcomes related to substance abuse, employment, health, and family
relationships while holding individuals accountable for their behavior directly
advance public safety objectives. Even modest reductions in recidivism will result in
fewer crimes and fewer victims and will make a dent in the $65 billion this country now
spends on corrections. The Second Chance Act, a landmark bill recently passed by Congress and signed by the president, further demonstrates
the emergence of prisoner reentry as an important, bipartisan
public policy issue. The need for parole supervision
agencies to effectively carry out their mission of reducing
crime and aiding reintegration has never been greater.
Current practice in parole supervision continues to rely heavily
on surveillance, which has repeatedly been shown, on its
own, to have little impact on recidivism. According to a Washington State Institute of
Public Policy analysis of adult corrections programs, supervision programs without a
focus on treatment do not, on average, produce any reduction in recidivism rates (Aos,
Miller, and Drake 2006). Moreover, with expanding caseloads and increasingly tight
budgets, parole officers often lack the resources, training, time, and mandate they need
to successfully reintegrate this growing population. According to the Crime and Justice
Institute, “the conventional approach to supervision in this country emphasizes individual
accountability from offenders and their supervising officers without consistently providing
either with the skills, tools, and resources that science indicates are necessary to
accomplish risk and recidivism reduction” (Bogue et al. 2004, 1).
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