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Parole Commission and Reorganization Act - The Impact of Parole Guidelines on the Federal Youth Corrections Program and Indeterminate Sentencing

NCJ Number
Rutgers Law Review Volume: 34 Issue: 3 Dated: (Spring 1982) Pages: 491-537
A B Bard
Date Published
47 pages
The 1976 Parole Commission and Reorganization Act (PCRA) nullified the distinctive characteristics of the 1950 Youth Corrections Act (YCA) and the indeterminate sentencing provision, undermining the court's crucial role in the parole process.
The YCA introduced indeterminate sentencing to the Federal parole statute to promote the rehabilitation of young offenders, and the 1958 amendments extended this sentencing option to adult offenders. The PCRA formally sanctioned the use of guidelines to govern the discretion of parole hearing examiners, established procedural safeguards for fair hearings, and defined criteria for determining parole eligibility. The act's text and history suggest that Congress did not intend to repeal the YCA or indeterminate sentences, but many recent court decisions have interpreted the PCRA as abandoning the rehabilitative aspects of programs for young offenders and inmates sentenced to indeterminate terms. Guided by the Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Addonizio, most courts have recognized that the indeterminate sentencing provision has no appreciable effect on either the amount of time the prisoner is likely to serve or the type of parole consideration he will receive. The PCRA failed to resolve the controversy over whether the sentencing guidelines apply to youth offenders, although the Court of Appeals in the Tenth Circuit in Watts v. Hadden concluded that applying the guidelines to youth offenders was an illegal attempt by the Parole Commission to reverse the policies and procedures of the YCA. The PCRA's ambiguities and the inconsistent interpretations by various courts have undermined the goals of the 1976 reform. Uniformity of treatment among prisoners has not been realized since the type of parole afforded a youth offender varies from region to region. The article contains 229 footnotes and adult parole guidelines.