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Evolving Role of Parole in the Criminal Justice System (From Crime & Justice in America: Present Realities and Future Prospects, Second Edition, P 405-412, 2002, Wilson R. Palacios, Paul F. Cromwell, and Roger G. Dunham, eds. -- NCJ-188466)

NCJ Number
Paul Cromwell
Date Published
8 pages
This chapter identifies the various historical periods of parole and how the practice has evolved from a purely rehabilitative correctional strategy to a means of controlling prison populations.
For the purposes of this analysis, "parole" is defined as, "the conditional release of a convicted offender from a penal or correctional institution, under the continued custody of the state, to serve the remainder of his or her sentence in the community under supervision." Although parole has drawn support from many sources and generally has a history of consensual acceptance, it has occasionally been subject to vigorous criticism and re-examination. In the early years of the 20th century, anti-parole groups believed that parole release was used primarily as a means of controlling inmates and that it failed to encourage changes in their behavior and attitudes after their release from prison. Other critics argued that release was granted after only a cursory review of the records of inmates. These criticisms led to two major changes in parole administration and organization: an increased emphasis on postrelease supervision of parolees and a shift away from giving parole authority to prison personnel and toward parole boards with independent authority and statewide jurisdiction. More recently parole has come under attack from the supporters of the popular correctional ideology of just deserts, which asserts that offenders should serve their full time in prison. Presidential commissions have alternatively recommended the extension of parole and indeterminacy of sentencing and the outright abolition of the same. Prudence in reform efforts is advisable, and such lessons that can be learned from past efforts should be carefully assessed. Parole, as it functions today, is an integral part of the total correctional process. Under parole, the selective releasing of offenders from prison into supervision in the community affords continuing protection for society while the offender is making adjustments and beginning to contribute to society. 1 table and 13 notes


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