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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