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Trends in State Parole: The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

NCJ Number
Perspectives Volume: 26 Issue: 3 Dated: Summer 2002 Pages: 26-33
Timothy A. Hughes; Doris James Wilson; Alan J. Beck Ph.D.
Date Published
8 pages
This article discusses the findings of the report Trends in State Parole, 1990-2000.
More than 652,000 adults were under State parole supervision at year-end 2000, up from 509,700 from 1990. During the year 441,600 adults entered parole supervision and 432,200 exited. The number under parole supervision grew exponentially (averaging 10 percent per year) before peaking in 1992, even though prison release rates dropped sharply early in the decade. Changes in sentencing laws and prison release policies, as well as the increased likelihood of a conviction and incarceration if arrested, spurred the growth of the prison population in the 1980's and early 1990's. Trends in State parole populations have been affected by a movement from discretionary release toward mandatory parole release and by the enactment of truth-in-sentencing legislation. Several factors, such as fluctuations in prison release rates, an increase in elapsed time served by offenders, and changes in release policies, influenced the flow of offenders from prison to parole supervision. Annual releases from State prison to parole supervision grew by an estimated 78,900 inmates. Drug offenders accounted for 61 percent of that increase, followed by violent offenders (23 percent), and public-order offenders (15 percent). All offenders released for the first time in 1999 served on average 49 percent of their sentence, up from 38 percent in 1990. This reflects statutory and policy changes that require offenders to serve a larger portion of their sentences before release. Data from 30 States reveal that offenders released by parole boards actually served more time in prison than other parolees. Among all parole entries, the percentage that had been re-released rose between 1990 and 1999. There is a complex relationship between the methods of parole and the type of offender and the length of time served. State prisoners released by a parole board had higher success rates than those released through mandatory parole in every year between 1990 and 1999. Success rates are higher if California is excluded. During 2000 more than 203,000 offenders were returned to prison for parole violations. 5 figures, 3 tables