MY PRESENTATION THIS MORNING WILL include: An argument for why we should study supervision A brief discussion of the title of our report: Does Parole Work? An overview of the study, including research questions, data sources, findings and limitations Some thoughts about both research and policy opportunities for the field of parole supervision. I also want to briefly acknowledge my co-authors – Avi Bhati, who was our methodological architect, and Vera Kachnowski – and the JEHT Foundation which funded our research.
Ok, why study supervision? The first reason is that lots of people are on it. Most prisoners - 80% - released to supervision in the community All told, 774,000 were on parole as of 2003, up from 197,000 in 1980 – a fourfold increase Resources have not kept pace with this growth. C aseloads are now about 70 parolees to 1 parole officer, translating to only 1 or 2 15 minute meetings per month.
A second important reason to study supervision is that failure rates are high. Only 45% of all parolees successfully complete parole without violating a condition of release or committing a new crime. As a result, large numbers of parolees – over 200,000 each year -- return to prison for violations. Nationally, parole violators account for about 1/3 of all new prison admissions. [1/3 for new convictions, 2/3 for technical violations]
A third important reason to study supervision is that parole is implemented differently state to state. The use, duration, and intensity of post-release supervision varies significantly across states Moreover, different supervision strategies are employed state to state. Some states are experimenting with neighborhood supervision, others with Global Positioning Surveillance. Some states rely heavily on drug testing, others are focused others focusing on community-based responses to parole violations… The bottom line is parole practices and policies vary substantially state to state. State also release prisoners to supervision in different ways. Some states still rely on parole boards to release prisoners to parole; others don’t. I’m devoting a whole slide to this topic in just a minute b/c it is central to our study.
To reiterate, there are large numbers on parole, high failure rates, and substantial variation in practices across states. At the same time, remarkably little is known about whether and how supervision increases public safety. To me, this context BEGS the question – the title of our study - Does Parole Work? But what do we mean by this? By “parole” we mean any post-prison community supervision, whether it’s called parole or not. By “works” we mean does supervision “work” to reduce criminal offending among the parole population, as measured by rearrests. We tried to spell out definition in the full title: Analyzing the impact of post prison supervision on rearrest rates . Nevertheless, there’s been a lot of criticism of this title, probably because it begs an answer – YES or NO – that grossly oversimplifies the issue. Concede that point, and will discuss the study’s limitations later in the presentation. But I would argue that the question itself is not only fair game, but crucial. I don’t know how can we talk about public safety in this country and NOT focus on the 4 million people on parole and probation? Moreover, it’s amazing to me that we can focus so much attn on prisoner reentry and NOT demand to know if community supervision – the biggest reentry intervention there is -- is contributing to public safety.
OK, so let me get into the study itself. The study compares prisoners released to supervision in 1994 to prisoners released without supervision. Our goal was to assess, at an aggregate level, whether parole “works” at reducing recidivism among those who are supervised after release from state prison. The study is organized around three key questions. First, do prisoners released with and without supervision differ with respect to demographics, incarceration characteristics, and criminal histories? Second, do prisoners released with and without supervision recidivate at different rates? And if so, for whom does supervision matter most?
As noted, we compare those released to supervision to those released without supervision. As it turns out, we really had to drill down one more level in order to say something meaningful about parole. As many of you know, there are basically 2 ways to be released from prison to supervision. (1) Discretionary release involves a parole board decision to release a prisoner before he has served his full sentence. Parole boards basically screen prisoners and use their “discretion” to determine who is most “ready” to return to the community. Parole boards may consider criminal histories, institutional conduct, and positive connections to the community such as employment, housing arrangements, and ties to family. In this presentation, I am going to refer to this group as Discretionary Parolees . (2) The second way to be released to supervision is via mandatory release. Mandatory release occurs when a prisoner has served his original sentence, less any good time credit. So mandatory releasees are released without the screening of a parole board. Yet they are released before their term is up, serving the balance of their sentence under supervision in the community. For the remainder of the presentation I will refer to this group as Mandatory Parolees . Community supervision resulting from either discretionary or mandatory release is not systematically different. In most states, conditions of supervision are similar for both types of parolees, although DPs often spend more time on supervision. (3) The third group in our study involve unconditional releases, who are released from prison after serving their full term behind bars. These individuals are released without, community supervision, conditions of release or reporting requirements. It’s worth noting that the method of release has shifted over the years. The green line on the graph represents the share of prisoners released via discretionary release – or parole boards – over time. As you can see, release by a parole board has declined from about 55% in 1980 to 24% in 2000. The blue line represents mandatory releases, and shows that mandatory releases now account for about 40% of all releases, up from less than 20% in 1980. Prisoners released without supervision account for about one-fifth of all prison releases. [with substantial variation across states (Travis/Lawrence)]
This study relies primarily on Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) data on 38,624 prisoners who are released in 1994 from prisons in 15 states. 35% of these prisoners in the sample were discretionary releases to supervision, 57% were mandatory releases to supervision, and 8% were unconditional releases. This sample of prisoners is representative of the 272,111 prisoners released from those states in 1994—two-thirds of all prisoners released nationwide in 1994. BJS tracked the prisoners for 3 years and produced the landmark report, “Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 1994” by Patrick Langan and David Levin. They did not look at recidivism outcomes of prisoners released to supervision compared to those released without it, and therefore left us that opportunity. +++++++++++++++++++++ States are Arizona, California, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, and Virginia… Due to issues with the data, Delaware is excluded from the analysis in this report. In NY in 1994, 83% DR, 13% MR, 5% UR
Turning to the first research question – Do prisoners released with and without supervision have different demographics, incarceration experiences, or criminal histories? +++++++++++++ Our original concept for this study was that states were not releasing URs early b/c too high a risk for parole board release and too poor conduct for good time credit, and therefore mandatory parole. We thought this group would therefore like difft, like a higher risk population, and probably reoffend at higher rates. Reality was not so stark…
As you can see, there are differences across groups, but not dramatic ones. I will call your attention to the highlighted cells, which show differences… Demographics for all 3 groups were similar, although smaller shares of MPs were black as compared to other groups. Unconditional releasees and mandatory parolees, however, had slightly higher average numbers of prior arrests than discretionary parolees. We also looked at prior arrests for violent crimes as an indicator of potential risk to the community upon release. Our analysis showed that larger shares of prisoners released unconditionally had previously been arrested for a violent offense than had mandatory parolees, with discretionary parolees the least likely to have been arrested for a violent offense in the past. In terms of their most recent incarceration offense, slightly higher shares of unconditional releases had been incarcerated for a violent offense. Finally, URs served substantially more time behind bars, suggesting they may be more disconnected from positive social networks than their supervised counterparts. So again, there are differences across groups, but not dramatic ones, especially b/w UR and MPs.
The 2 nd question we sought to answer was Do prisoners released with and without supervision recidivate at different rates? I should note that while the BJS data tracked recidivism outcomes for 3 years, we chose a 2 year window to more closely mirror average time on parole (26 months in 1999).
Our analysis indicated that 62% of unconditional releasees were rearrested at least once over 2 years, as compared with 61% of mandatory parolees and 54% of discretionary parolees. Of those who were rearrested, the average number of rearrests was b/w 2 and 2 and a half. These findings mirror unpublished analysis by BJS of the 1983 release cohort, which found 62.3% of conditional releases were rearrested within 3 years, compared to 64.8% of unconditionals… pretty similar to what we see here. (Petersilia, Reforming Prob and Parole) +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ May want to add that we looked at what types of offenses each group was first rearrested for… 2 standouts were a slightly higher share of unconditional releasees were first rearrested for violent crimes. a somewhat higher share of mandatory parolees were first rearrested for drug offenses, and ++++++++++++++++++++ When excluded the small number who were rearrested solely for TVs, the figures changed slightly but didn’t change the qualitative story. Chose not to exclude them generally b/c may well represent arrests for new crimes. Unmodeled – 62, 61, 52 Modeled – 62, 61, 56
The next step in our study was to determine how much rearrest outcomes were being driven by characteristics of the populations. For example, to what extent did the discretionary parolees do better b/c they had slightly less involved criminal histories? To better isolate the effect of supervision, we used statistical methods to compare people with similar demographics and criminal histories to each other. So, after controlling for race, age, prior arrests, offense type, admission type, and characteristics of the communities to which they return, the difference in rearrest rates narrowed so that the likelihood of rearrest for similar mandatory parolees and unconditional releasees was identical at 61%, compared with 57% for discretionary parolees. In other words, mandatory parolees, who represent the largest share of released prisoners, were no better off in terms of rearrests than prisoners released without supervision. Those screened by a parole board were somewhat less likely to be rearrested, but the difference narrowed after taking into account demographics and criminal histories. Some will see this difference – 4 percentage points as big and argue that DR should be re-expanded to more states and more prisoners. Many others (including my co-authors and myself) view it as relatively small given that parole boards selected these individuals as low-risk candidates for release. Factors such as attitude, motivation, and preparedness for release were considered by parole boards, and so quite honestly I would expect this group to be substantially – rather than marginally -- less likely to recidivate. ++++++++++++++++ why discretionary is not the answer... If expanded to all states may well have an impact, allowing states to select who to release when, but it it’s an answer with limits b/c will run out of the &quot;better&quot; cases and still need mand supervision at end, and must be effective... got to make sure the supervision aspect, not just selection aspect, works… by definition, can’t apply DR to all… would would happen is the highest risk would, in the end, be released without supervision.
Although the overall differences in rearrest rates for the 3 groups were relatively modest, we wanted to know if certain subgroups were impacted by supervision more than others. So our third research question was For whom does supervision matter most?
We found that certain prisoners did benefit more from supervision than others in terms of rearrest outcomes. For example, females, individuals with few prior arrests, public order offenders, and technical violators were less likely to be rearrested if supervised than their unsupervised counterparts. Those who had a combination of these characteristics – typically lower risk, lower level offenders -- yielded even greater benefits. Unfortunately, people with these characteristics account for small shares of the overall release cohort. Conversely, supervision did not improve rearrest outcomes for some of the higher rate, more serious offenders. This finding has jarred many experts in the field who would expect higher risk individuals to be most impacted by supervision, as they are by treatment. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ It may be that these individuals, who have extensive and serious criminal histories, are immune to the deterrent effect of supervision and unthreatened by the possibility of reincarceration. ++++++++++++++++++ Re low risk… It is possible that these individuals are more responsive to the sanctions and services provided by supervision given their minimal prior involvements with the justice system. [NOTE VEXING!!! andrew klein paper on supervision and dv... see #12 ... says specialized supervisions programs made a diffce, but not for high risk abusers (those typically who had already failed probation for dv or were setneced concrrently for multiple dv charges).]
[DROP??] Here is some of the data behind the bullets on the previous slide. Just to point out a couple examples… Looking at females - the likelihood of rearrest for a female parolee is 51%, as compared to 67% for a similar female released without supervision. There is a similar pattern for public order offenses, although not quite as pronounced. Again, people who have certain combinations of characteristics – such as a female with few priors, etc – face even greater benefits from supervision than similar females who are not supervised. However, these groups make up relatively small shares of the release population. +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Looking at public order offenses - the likelihood of rearrest for someone incarcerated for a public order offense is substantially lower if they are released to supervision (55%/57%) than a similar public order offender released without supervision (who faces a 65% likelihood of rearrest). ++++++++++++++++ Examples of no diffce High priors - the likelihood of rearrest for a mandatory parolee with high prior arrests is 70%, compared with 66% for DPs and 68% for URs. Violent offenders - the likelihood of rearrest for someone incarcerated for a violent offense is about 55% - whether you are supervised or not. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Note that TVs released unconditionally have the highest rearrest rates than anyone else.
We then cut the data differently, to look at the largest release groups. As you can see, males with property, drug and violent incarceration offenses account for 80% of 1994 releases. So, looking at males whose incarcerating offense was a crime of violence. This group accounted for about 21% of the release cohort. The likelihood of rearrest for all three groups was about the same – around 55%. So supervision seemed to have no impact on this group. Male drug offenders accounted for about 28% of the release cohort. Mandatory release to supervision predicts higher rearrest rates for this group than for unconditional releasees or discretionary parolees. Discretionary parole does seem to benefit male property offenders – who account for about 31% of the released population - although predicted rearrest rates for mandatory parolees are virtually the same as for unconditional releasees. In sum, of the largest release groups, only property offenders released to discretionary parole “benefit” from supervision in terms of reduced rearrest rates. I am sparing you another chart here, but the data behind these and all statements can be found in the study +++++++++++++++++++ [Mandatory parolees may have higher rearrest rates because, unlike their discretionary counterparts, they are a higher risk population; unlike the unconditional releasees, they are subject to heightened surveillance, which may include frequent drug testing.]
So, to summarize the major findings of our study: (1) Across states, in the aggregate, parole supervision seemed to have little effect on rearrest rates Mandatory parolees, who now represent the largest share of released prisoners, fare no better than those released without supervision Discretionary parolees do somewhat better, but not as much as might be expected given this group is selected to group b/c lower risk (2) Some groups benefit more from supervision Lower-level offenders benefit most. Unfortunately, the highest benefiting groups comprise small shares of population (3) And then, as we just noted, of the largest release groups, only property offenders released to discretionary parole “benefit” from supervision in terms of lower rearrest rates.
So what do these findings tell us? I think it’s clear that the topic of parole warrants further attention. The study suggests, pretty clearly, that on balance, looking at several large states, parole has not contributed substantially to reduced recidivism and increased public safety. Given the large numbers on parole, the cost of imprisonment, and mostly the desire to avoid future victimizations, it seems pretty important to spend some time and resources exploring these issues further. At the same time, the study does not conclude that parole can’t work. In fact it may work quite well in some places. But the study does not speak to state level successes and what works for whom where. In fact, as all studies do, ours raises more questions than it actually answers… +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ why parole doesn’t work: (1) caseloads too high, minimal real contact (2) office bound, 9-5 (3) surveillance oriented vs incorporating treatment function (4) Poor response to violations…
So building on this last slide… we need to know: More about what’s going on in each state and more importantly, what works where. Our study was a multi-state analysis that told a national-level story, when the reality is that the parole is very different in each state, and supervision strategies surely have a different impact on recidivism state to state. There are basically 50 difft experiments out there worth assessing… Our study also couldn’t get inside the big black box of supervision… we just didn’t have the data to address what types of parole strategies work better than others… we couldn’t take into account length, type or intensity of supervision, programming, treatment, caseload size, contact standards, and other important variables that are ripe for further study While our study did shed light on the types of individuals that benefit most from supervision, the important next step is to figure out why parole works for some better than others and how similar gains could be realized for larger subsets of the parole caseload. It is also worth considering whether there are lessons from the discretionary release process that could be transferred to post-release supervision. For example, are there other ways to stimulate good behavior, increase individual motivation, and better prepare a greater share of prisoners prior to release in the absense of discretionary release?
As important as this research is, I don’t think we can afford to wait for all of the answers before thinking about how to improve parole… Many of these ideas have research backing, others reflect a broad consensus among seasoned practitioners…. All of them are testable and should be evaluated… what works should be expanded upon, what doesn’t should be abandoned………. In terms of broad policy opportunities, I think the starting place is with agency mission -- specifically, parole should adopt a mission that puts public safety first. Most of the “rethinking/reinvention” discussions to date have honed in on this as well: the field should be clear about it’s purpose and own the recidivism problem, even if it’s not responsible for all of it. (Broken Windows, probably OJP, Kleiman) Relatedly, parole agencies should set and be accountable for explicit public safety benchmarks. I know this is risky stuff, and it’s easy to fall short here in a public way. But the policing profession has led the way (Kleiman). Following their lead, parole agencies could to set performance goals that say, for example, that only 30% of people under their watch would be rearrested. (Corbett) This would be a sea change – and could both raise parole’s credibility with the public and signal to line staff that controlling crime among parolees is possible.** Agencies should also implement evidence-based practices, taking advantage of what the research community has proven to be effective. It is also essential, and probably efficient, for parole to partner with other agencies - such as housing authorities, workforce development boards, and community health care providers -- who are now recognizing aspects of the reentry problem as their own [RPC report, taxman plus]. Partnering with other agencies is also a way to expand the capacity of parole without necessarily having to develop and pay for it alone. +++++++++++++++++++++++++++ EBP (NIC/C&JI 2004)… assess risk/needs, enhance intrinsic motivation, target interventions • risk principle (prioritize resources for high risk); need principle (target interventions to crimin. Needs), responsivity principle, dosage (40-70% of time for 3-9 mo!, treatment (integrate into sent/sanc), •skill train with directed practice (cog beh treatment modes), increase positive reinforcement, •engage ongoing support in natural communities, •measure releavent processes/practices, •provide measurement feedback
In terms of supervision strategies, there’s a case to be made for: Neighborhood parole. Again, following the lead of police, there’s a need to end “fortress” parole that takes place in an office b/w 9am and 5pm (RPC) and supervise people where they live, focusing on making places safer.* (Reentry Policy Council Report too.) Parole supervision should emphasize both surveillance and treatment. The research speaks clearly to the point that it takes a mix of surveillance and treatment to reduce recidivism most effectively (Petersilia, Taxman, Sherman). I would argue that even if parole can’t provide sufficient treatment for parolees, they should use their legal powers to coerce parolees into treatment and sobriety, jobs and job training. (Kleiman - stay sober and in treatment, get job and keep job) Parole should align their resources with the risks, placing a priority on the highest risk offenders (many) , the highest risk places, and the highest risk time for offending – which is known to be the first days, weeks and months after a prisoner is released. (Travis) Prioritize -- and communicate – only rules and conditions that can be realistically monitored and enforced. This speaks to the deterrence function of supervision, ensuring that parolees know the ground rules and expect them to be implemented. (Kleiman, Taxman, Boston?) Parole agencies should instill swift, certain, consistent, predictable responses to failures. This could be a whole topic on its own and there is some good work underway here (GA ex, RPC). Finally, parole should consider a range of incentives for successes along the way, including the ultimate incentive -- allowing a parolee to earn their way off parole by keeping a job, staying sober, paying child support and the like. (Travis, Farabee) +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Source Joan’s book “Reforming Probation and Parole” 2002 ACA… interviews with correctional experts reveal consensus that parole should be reinvented and the new model should incorporate Id highest risk parolees and prioritize them Deliver quality treatment and job training to those who it could help Develop intermediate sanctions in the community for technical violations Neighbhorhood parole… community centered approach, neigh based with partnerships with police, residents, families, neigh assoc, faith… ++++++++++++++++++++++++++ article - (BW). This equals “passive supervision” per smith dickey 1998 - see BW. Need to focus on – making places safer. Point 3 - taxman “provide setting where rules and expectations are clear and uniformly applied would increase compliance rate and ultimately improve outcomes.”
So where does this leave us? I think there is a major opportunity to reform parole, or “reinvent” it, to echo many practitioners and experts in the field. On the one hand, parole is not producing large, visible reductions in crime among its caseload. Yet on the other hand it has great potential to control crime – having legal authority to set rules for a high risk population, to coerce – for lack of a better word - sobriety, employment, and other positive outcomes. In closing, this is a timely oppty for parole to be at the center of the reentry discussions, the center of the public safety discussions… to provide real public value in more places than it does now, and to be a major contributor to public safety. +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ To echo the sentiment of the RPC, parole will either be at the center of publicly supported reentry efforts or it will continue to be devalued, underfunded, and less effective than its potential… “Either probation will be at the the political and intellectual core of future policy-oriented efforts to promote public safety and offender rehabilitation in America, or it will continue to be widely devalued, ineffective, and woefully under-funded.” p2 BW “ at once the most troubled and the most promising part of America’s criminal justice system.” “ The untapped giant of the public safety arena,” having “greater potential to control the behavior of offenders than any other criminal justice component.”
Does Parole Work? Research Findings and Policy Opportunities Amy L. Solomon Justice Policy Center The Urban Institute Occasional Series on Reentry Research John Jay College of Criminal Justice New York City October 21, 2005
Parole not producing large, visible reductions in crime
Yet great potential to control crime
Timely opportunity to
Be at center of reentry policy discussions
Produce public value
Be major contributor to public safety
URBAN INSTITUTE Justice Policy Center To receive email updates of JPC research, send an email to [email_address] Does Parole Work? Analyzing the Impact of Postprison Supervision on Rearrest Outcomes is available at: http://www.urban.org/url.cfm?ID=311156 For more information on prisoner reentry, please visit the Urban Institute website at: http://jpc.urban.org/reentry
URBAN INSTITUTE Justice Policy Center Co-authors Amy Solomon, Vera Kachnowski, and Avi Bhati are grateful for the generous support of the JEHT Foundation for funding the study , Does Parole Work? Analyzing the Impact of Postprison Supervision on Rearrest Outcomes