The study first reviewed the objectives of release in the broad context of the purposes of imprisonment. It was found that release has many goals and functions, some of which are not recognized or even intended as objectives but whose effects are clearly present. Some of these unintended functions include the reduction of penitentiary populations, the mitigation of punishment, the evening out of sentence disparity, the control and management of penitentiary inmates and programs, and cost savings. It is suggested that objectives of release be addressed through workshops in order to determine what the system is trying to accomplish. The study then focused on operational issues through examination of each release program, including temporary absence, full parole selection, day parole, earned remission, and mandatory supervision. Temporary absence has been an extremely successful program of some 50,000 releases annually, of which fewer than 1 percent are declared unlawfully at large, detained by the police, or terminated for misbehavior. Day parole is growing but its objectives remain unclear. Full parole selection suffers from vague and questionable statutory criteria. Parole supervision appears to impact on recidivism rates to a lesser extent than does previous criminal involvement. Earned remission offers little promise as a motivator of exceptional inmate behavior. Mandatory supervision remains a highly controversial program. Findings also revealed that the recidivism rates, especially for violent recidivism, are exaggerated. In addition, little systematic attention is devoted either to predicting violence or to providing treatment for potentially violent offenders in the penitentiary. Thirty eight tables ae included, and statistical information and a bibliography are appended.