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Parole, Desistance from Crime, and Community Integration 3 Parole: Current Practices Since the 1970s, the focus of parole supervision has shifted from the dual purposes of making sure that parolees complied with their conditions of parole and aiding their social reintegration by providing community resources (e.g., job training, drug counseling) to a more direct emphasis on crime control. Parole agents increasingly emphasize their police function and deemphasize the casework portion of their role (Petersilia, 2003; Solomon, Kachnowski, and Bhati, 2005); yet there is wide variation across agencies. This chapter discusses the most recent evidence on the nature, costs, and effectiveness of parole supervision and services for releasees in the community. SUPERVISORY AGENCIES AND PERSONNEL Supervision Parole “supervision” is an unfortunate term because it means different things in different parole settings. Although parolees’ behavior is sometimes closely monitored, frequently it is not. An expansion of “intensive supervision parole” and the use of new technologies, such as electronic monitoring and a global positioning system (GPS), have occurred during the past 20 years as part of a broader movement to focus supervision and treatment resources on those either the most likely to benefit or those in greatest danger of recidivism (Petersilia, 2003). These approaches do enhance the
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Parole, Desistance from Crime, and Community Integration capacity of officials to monitor parolees; however, they are not used, and likely cannot be used, for most parolees. Supervision for many parolees consists of simply checking in with the parole agency. Such checking in varies from mailing in a form to a parole officer, to a periodic phone call to a clerical staff person, to a face-to-face visit with a parole agent. In a keynote address before the Corrections Technology Association, the director of the New York City Probation Services described that agency’s automated check-in procedure with regard to probationers, most of whom never have been to prison (Horn, 2002, p. 3). Several years ago, New York Probation pioneered the use of “reporting kiosks,” which were touted in TECHBEAT as one of the most innovative uses of technology in community corrections. In fact, today, 15,000 probationers, over 1/3 of my active caseload, “report” to a kiosk. What does this mean? Probationers come to our downtown “fortress probation” offices where they wait on long lines in overheated offices to stand in front of an ATM-like device, really no more than a PC in a hardened case. Then, using a biometric hand scanner and PIN their identity is verified and they respond on a touch screen to a series of questions similar to those most often asked by probation officers. If all is in order they are provided a receipt and a new date to come in. For most parolees, on the other hand, supervision means check-ins, combined with periodic field contacts by a parole agent with the parolee and his associates (called collateral contacts). Field contacts range between once a week to once every few months. Petersilia (2006) reported that nearly one in four California parolees is assigned to minimum supervision, meaning that they see a parole officer only twice a year. Another 43 percent of parolees fall within the control services classification, meaning that they will see a parole officer once every 6 weeks (Petersilia, 2001). For other parolees, more frequent contact is most likely immediately after release or when there are problems; less frequent contact is more likely with parolees who have long periods left on a parole sentence and good, stable behavior. Field contacts take place at the residence of parolees, their workplaces, or elsewhere. Ideally, these are surprise visits, but this is not always possible. The purpose of the contacts is to make sure that parolees are complying with their conditions of parole. As noted above, parolees are expected to comply with a standard set of conditions—do not violate any law, do not possess a firearm or illegal drugs, do not associate with persons with criminal records, do not leave the jurisdiction, etc.—and some parolees have additional conditions, such as required drug treatment, required participation in other programs such as job training and drug testing. Although some contacts may essentially be counseling sessions, others may be conducted solely to ensure that the parolee is working regularly or to collect a
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Parole, Desistance from Crime, and Community Integration urine sample for drug testing. Collateral contacts may also be made with the police, family members, employers, social service providers, school officials, or even neighbors. With check-in systems, parole officers rely on collateral contacts to verify that parolees are complying with conditions of release. The average parole caseload in the United States is 70 parolees to one parole officer. Officers with caseloads under “intensive supervision” are responsible for fewer parolees (about 30), allowing more frequent contacts on the assumption that closer supervision will act as a greater deterrent because of the high likelihood of detecting more violations. In addition to more frequent contacts, individuals subject to intensive supervision parole frequently have special parole conditions (e.g., frequent drug testing, therapeutic drug treatment, electronic monitoring). Some parolees are placed on intensive supervision parole on the basis of a number of available classification schemes. One is a Salient Factor Score, which is determined by an offender’s criminal history and prison adjustment; another is the Client Management Classification System (for reviews, see Harris et al., 2004; Lattimore, 2006). Other parolees may be assigned to intensive supervision because of the severity of their most recent offense conviction or for particular types of offenses. The main objective of intensive supervision parole is a reduction in recidivism for new crimes, but the available evidence suggests that this objective has not yet been achieved. A rigorous study by Petersilia and Turner (1993) of intensive supervision parole and probation programs in nine states, found that offenders in intensive supervision programs had relatively the same number of subsequent arrests, but more technical violations and returns to incarceration, than their nonintensive supervision program counterparts. However, if those programs combined drug treatment, community service, and employment programs with surveillance, recidivism rates were 10 to 20 percent lower than for those who did not participate in such activities. A meta-analysis of intensive supervision probation and parole programs also found that combining surveillance with treatment resulted in reduced recidivism (Gendreau and Little, 1993). Electronic monitoring is used in some jurisdictions to complement or in lieu of traditional parole supervision. If a parolee leaves the area to which he or she is restricted, a signal is sent to a monitoring office or computer system. Again, in contrast to expectations and general belief, research shows that individuals on probation with electronic monitoring are no more or less likely to experience new arrests than those under standard supervision (Finn and Muirhead-Steves, 2002). Whether this would be the case with parolees is an empirical question. Intensive supervision parole, with or without electronic monitoring, is more expensive than traditional parole supervision: about $8,000 and
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Parole, Desistance from Crime, and Community Integration $5,000, respectively, per year (Petersilia, 2003), compared to about $2,000 for traditional supervision. Yet the annual cost of intensive supervision and electronic monitoring are less than the cost of prison, which averages $23,397 per year per prisoner in the United States (Petersilia, 2006). Conceptually, electronic monitoring could be expected to enhance enforcement of stay away orders, curfews and participation in social services and could enable the monitoring of many other conditions for release to the community. Caseloads A belief that smaller caseloads would lead to less offending dates back at least to 1973, when the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice recommended that parole and probation caseloads not exceed 35 individuals. During the early 1970s, the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (now the Department of Health and Human Services) provided support to reduce some specialized caseloads (welfare recipients and parolees with alcohol and drug dependencies) to 25. Today, the increased size of the prison population, with consequent increases in the number of releasees returning to communities, and unchanged levels of funding for parole services, have led to caseloads that are often at 70 or higher (Petersilia, 2001).1 Although caseload size has not been shown to affect recidivism among parolees, one can assume that caseload sizes are not limitless: neither effective supervision nor treatment is as likely when the number of persons being supervised overwhelms the capacity of parole officers and agents. Although the argument for focusing resources simply on caseload size has not been supported, it is possible that very large caseloads diminish the effectiveness of other strategies. Moreover, it has been shown that caseload size is a significant factor in determining how parole officers deliver services and how they experience their jobs (Quinn and Gould, 2003). It is likely that the quality of assessment and classification and the effectiveness of social services and treatments provided are more important than the size of caseloads. With this in mind, the American Probation and Parole Association has recommended a workload model in determining the size of caseloads (see caseload standards at http://www.appa-net.org/ccheadlines/docs/caseloads_standards_pp_0906.p [accessed July 2007]). 1 For comparison, probation caseloads are frequently much higher, exceeding 200 or even 300 in some jurisdictions. Although on average probationers have committed less serious offences than parolees, this is not always true: probationers may include people convicted of such serious offenses as robbery, assault, domestic violence, and drug-related crimes. Many are in need of significant treatment or intensive supervision.
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Parole, Desistance from Crime, and Community Integration Parole Agencies’ Missions Community protection is a common goal of parole agents, but the route to this objective varies. At one extreme are agencies that define the primary goal of parole supervision as surveillance and the control and regulation of their clients’ behavior. At the other extreme are agencies that attempt to protect the public by providing the treatment and reintegration services that are believed to promote desistance. Obviously, most parole agencies lie on a continuum between these extremes; specific offices and individual parole agents define their responsibilities at various places along this continuum. Agents are influenced by the culture of their offices, which can change over time. The culture of parole agencies is an important factor in how parole supervision is carried out (McCleary, 1992) The overall shift towards a crime control model of parole in recent decades and variations across agencies in how they define their mission create a challenge for some reforms when they do not align with an agency, an office, or agents’ cultures. For example, if a new treatment regime is tried in an agency that is primarily focused on surveillance, parole agents may be less likely to implement the treatment as the treatment designers and even their supervisors intend. Parole Agents: Conflicting Missions Variations in agency mission and culture—as well as in the fundamental role of parole itself—point to the conflict for parole agents: they don’t know whether they are expected to be law enforcement agents or social caseworkers. They have responsibility for enforcing the law and the conditions of parole, as well as assisting in released offenders’ reintegration in society. In part, the resolution of this conflict in favor of enforcement has been driven by heinous events—such as sexual assault, as in the Willie Horton case, or the rape and murder of a child, as in the Polly Klass and Megan Kanka cases. Media coverage of these kinds of crimes, the crime victims’ movement which took off in the early 1980s, and the war on drugs have all fueled a trend toward punitiveness. The cost of strict enforcement, whether warranted or not, is borne only by the parolee. The cost of failing to clamp down on a dangerous parolee is borne by an entire agency or, as in the Willie Horton case, a governor. Consequently, agencies have been hard pressed to emphasize rehabilitation or take the process of relapse into account. The agents who emphasize the supervision role typically think of themselves as, and act like, corrections officers whose job is to maintain control of their charges. Theirs is a workday of surveillance, investigation, and enforcement. The agents who emphasize the casework side of the role tend to define the parolees on their caseloads as clients in need of problem
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Parole, Desistance from Crime, and Community Integration diagnostics and appropriate services. The conflict is that nearly all parole officers are called on by their employers to do both. They sometimes find themselves derided as “detective lite” by law enforcement colleagues and chided for being a “social worker with a gun” by social workers and other treatment professionals. In some jurisdictions these conflicts have been minimized by changing the institutional positioning of the parole functions. Some jurisdictions have turned to or partnered with law enforcement to buttress the supervision of parolees. The Washington State Department of Corrections, in its neighborhood corrections initiative, has assigned corrections officers to ride with police in what is known on the streets of Seattle as the “jump out van.”2 The teams proactively patrol the streets, working exclusively in transient, urban, and homeless areas to provide an unparalleled level of supervision of releasees and a bridge to services ranging from drug treatment and housing to socks, food, water, and shelter (Northwest Law Enforcement and Public Safety Training, 2006). While parole (and probation) officers formerly were drawn heavily from the ranks of retired police officers, they are now usually college graduates who define themselves as professional parole (or probation) officers. Starting salaries are similar to those for public school teachers and, as in teaching, their supervisors worry about burnout. Working conditions for parole agents can be difficult: large caseloads, less than agreeable clients, a lot of time in the least desirable parts of communities, and plenty of blame when a parolee commits a new crime. Police and Parole Supervision Parole officers and local police agencies have long had close informal working relationships. In some jurisdictions the police are routinely notified when a person is released on parole in their area. Many parole officers regularly scan the arrest logs of police departments to see if parolees on their caseloads were picked up. Historically, this task was simply defined as doing the job. More recently, more formalized partnerships between parole and probation agencies and police departments have sometimes been set up. As a retired chief probation officer noted (Burrell, 2005, p. 596): Ironically, line officers have been collaborating for years—with police officers, drug counselors, teachers, psychologists, employment specialists and others—who were also involved with their clients. The critical differ- 2 Washington has abolished traditional parole although there is intensive supervision for some released offenders.
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Parole, Desistance from Crime, and Community Integration ence today is that these partnerships are forged at a higher level and are more formal. The Urban Institute recently published an excellent report summarizing several ongoing law enforcement programs designed to positively affect prisoner reentry (La Vigne et al., 2006). While parole officers in some agencies may arrest individuals, particularly for noncriminal violations of specific parole conditions, other officers may elect to have sworn police officers make such arrests, and some agencies require it. Federal probation and parole officers are, by policy, directed not to execute warrants. RULES FOR RELEASEES The goal of parole supervision (or other forms of supervised release) is to enable and require prison releasees to live law-abiding lives in the community. As just discussed, both services and supervision are part of parole. Supervision includes rules, and rules necessarily have sanctions for violations. A key question in enforcing rules in any situation is the role of incentives and disincentives: What is the proper balance between incentives to reward good behavior and sanctions to punish bad behavior? Since the ultimate goal of parole supervision is to prevent releasees from committing new offenses, the rules of parole should be demonstrably linked to reducing the risk of new offenses. Unfortunately, we know little from research about whether rules of parole are linked to less offending (Solomon et al., 2005). A major issue in parole involves violations of the specific conditions of parole (the parole contract) that do not involve criminal offenses. Such violations include meeting with known felons, missing a check-in or meeting with a parole agent, being out after a curfew time, and missing a scheduled drug test. One view is that such violations should not have major consequences, such as return to prison. In this view, unless there is a pattern of violations or absconding from supervision that signals a releasee’s refusal to take the supervision relationship seriously, parole sanctions need not, and in general, should not involve revocation of parole and return to prison. (This approach does not involve conduct that would be prosecuted if committed by an ordinary citizen, though presumably that would be a new offense.) The underlying assumption of this approach is that less drastic sanctions, if delivered quickly and predictably, can control a parolee’s behavior and enhance the prospects for long-term success. The contrary view is that some violations, even of a procedural nature, are significant signs that a parolee is not respecting the terms of the parole contract—is not attempting to live as a law-abiding citizen—and so should
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Parole, Desistance from Crime, and Community Integration suffer major consequences. This can be characterized as analogous to the “broken windows” approach to law enforcement, because it rests on the assumption that minor violations, if left unattended, can lead to more serious ones (Wilson and Kelling, 1982; Cartier, Farabee, and Pendergast, 2006). Tracking violations can be complex because of large caseloads. Many parolees meet with their parole officer on an infrequent basis, so detection of violations may seem almost random. But officers have broad discretion in most cases in the way they supervise their caseloads. They can give specific parolees that worry them more attention. Research indicates that parolees who are more closely supervised have higher violation rates. Many behaviors that involve compliance with the rules of parole can be the subject of the supervision process. Abstinence from illicit drug use can be monitored by chemical testing. For releasees with established drug problems, testing can be frequent enough (i.e., twice a week) to leave little or no window for undetected drug use. At that frequency, tests can be scheduled in advance, making them less disruptive to parolees’ lives. Parolees without known drug problems and those who have proven their ability to refrain from drug use by a long series of negative tests can be monitored by random testing. These approaches are in contrast to the practice of infrequent testing on announced dates, which can be virtually an open invitation to use drugs other than in the few days before the scheduled test. For those parolees subject to frequent testing, the efficacy of the threat of sanctions in reducing drug use is greatly enhanced by the use of testing methods that provide on-the-spot results. Other parole rules—such as curfews, stay-away orders, and requirements to appear at work or for treatment—can be verified by electronic monitoring. The level of contentiousness that sometimes characterizes this debate over violating specified conditions of parole may be lessened by combining realistic and enforceable release conditions with graduated incentives and consequences (i.e., graduated responses). For example, Andrews and Bonta (1998) and Taxman (2006) specifically discuss the importance of using rewards in the process as a means of encouraging compliance with program requirements. Positive incentives for compliance are important complements to sanctions for violations. Less intrusive supervision and the remission of previously collected fines are both likely to be valued by releasees, but a wide variety of rewards, such as tickets to sporting events, may also have a role. The benefits of even small reductions in recidivism can easily cover the costs of such rewards; the greater challenge may be in devising the rewards and justifying them to policy makers and the public.