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Standardizing Parole Violation Sanctions

NCJ Number
NIJ Journal Issue: 263 Dated: June 2009 Pages: 18-22
David Fialkoff
Date Published
June 2009
5 pages
This article reports on the features and assessments of efforts to address fairness and proportionality in handling parole violations in Ohio and California by using tools that calculate sanctions for parole violations.
Ohio has been using a matrix for approximately 4 years, and California began using a computer-based model in 2008. The Ohio matrix allows multiple sanctions, called "unit-level sanctions," before parole is revoked. Possible sanctions include more restrictive conditions on parole, increased structured supervision, substance abuse testing and monitoring, reprimands, and halfway house placement. Although this graduated sanction system is less rigid than those used by many drug courts, the matrix is nondiscretionary in limiting the number of unit sanctions. In addition, the number of sanctions decreases as risk level, violation severity, and number of violations increase. This, in turn, increases the likelihood of a revocation hearing, opening up the possibility that a parolee will be returned to prison. Research on the effectiveness of the matrix has shown it achieved many of the results intended by policymakers. It has significantly reduced costly revocation hearings, and the hearings that occurred were more efficient. There was greater proportionality between the risk of reoffending and the sanctions imposed; and sanctions increased in severity for each reoffense or violation. California's computer-based parole-violation sentencing system is called the Parole Violation Decision Making Instrument (PVDMI). Corrections officials first determine the offender's risk score using the California Static Risk Assessment (CSRA), which predicts the likelihood of reoffending based on criminal history and personal characteristics such as age and sex. The PVDMI is then used to determine where the parolee's violation falls on a severity scale. The degree of severity is then cross-referenced with the CSRA score in order to determine a response level or sanction. This article reports on an assessment of problems with this system's performance. 12 notes