U.S. Department of Justice

Parole

Topics In the Library

Parole, both a procedure by which a board administratively releases inmates from prison as well as a provision for post-release supervision, comes from the French word parol, referring to "word," as in giving one's word of honor or promise.

Over time it has come to mean an inmate's promise to conduct him- or herself in a law abiding manner and according to certain rules—in exchange for release. Persons under parole supervision served terms of incarceration and were released to live and work in the community under supervision, with continued adherences to the law monitored (Senate Research Center, 1999).

Since eligibility for release on parole is a matter of state law, there is considerable variation in the location, administration, and organization of paroling authorities in the United States. Parole boards may be autonomous panels with administrative support from a department of corrections or a community corrections agency, or they may be a part of the executive branch of state government. Some have direct responsibility for staff who monitor the supervision of parolees in the community while others do not. Regardless of the location, administration, and organization of these agencies, parole is a significant component of the criminal justice system.

Recommended Reading

Date Title Type
2011
Document 024201
The Future of Parole as a Key Partner in Assuring Public Safety
Center for Effective Public Policy (Philadelphia, PA); National Institute of Corrections (Washington, DC).
“This paper provides suggestions and examples about how these key decisionmaking functions of parole [which offenders participate in which programs, when, and for how long] can be shaped to target resources effectively according to the principles of risk, need, and responsivity” (p. viii). Sections of this publication include: introduction; historical context; the cusp of change; parole at the crossroads; resources to support parole’s new role; targets of excellence in paroling authority decisio... Read More
PDF
29 pages
2011
Document 024200
Special Challenges Facing Parole
National Institute of Corrections (Washington, DC). Center for Effective Public Policy (Philadelphia, PA); National Institute of Corrections (Washington, DC).
This guide is designed to “lay out the context, summarize the key issues, highlight the recent research, and provide suggestions about where to find more extensive and detailed resources” about special populations parole boards may have contact with (p. xiii). Seven chapters are contained in this publication: sex offenders; offenders who have significant mental health concerns; offenders who have significant substance abuse problems; women offenders; aging or geriatric offenders; youthful/juveni... Read More
PDF
64 pages
2011
Document 024199
Paroling Authorities’ Strategic Planning and Management for Results
National Institute of Corrections (Washington, DC). Center for Effective Public Policy (Philadelphia, PA); National Institute of Corrections (Washington, DC).
Individuals involved in making sure their parole agency’s goals are being met need to read this paper. It provides guidance for a paroling authority in “defining its vision and mission, assembling information and resources to accomplish its goals, and putting into place appropriate management and performance measurement systems to carry out its objectives and measure its progress” (p. v). Six chapters are contained in this publication: craft your vision and mission statements; assess your organi... Read More
PDF
33 pages
2011
Document 024198
Evidence-Based Policy, Practice, and Decisionmaking: Implications for Paroling Authorities
By Carter, Madeline. National Institute of Corrections. Community Corrections Division (Washington, DC). Center for Effective Public Policy (Silver Spring, MD); National Institute of Corrections. Community Corrections Division (Washington, DC).
New parole board members and parole executives should read this publication. It “examines information emerging from research on evidence-based practice and decisionmaking in parole and the implications of these findings for paroling authorities” (p. viii). Five chapters comprise this document: evidence-based policy, practice, and decisionmaking—what it is and why paroling authorities should be interested in it; significant research findings regarding risk reduction—implications for paroling auth... Read More
PDF
43 p.
2010
Document 024197
Core Competencies: A Resource for Parole Board Chairs, Members, and Executive Staff
By Stroker, Richard; Burke, Peggy, ed.; Gilligan, Leilah, ed.. National Institute of Corrections. Community Corrections Division (Washington, DC). Center for Effective Public Policy (Philadelphia, PA); National Institute of Corrections. Community Corrections Division (Washington, DC).
New parole board members and parole executives should read this publication. It will introduce them to the core competencies they need to have to effectively execute their public responsibilities. Chapters cover: the broad context of parole work—parole’s function, purpose, and role in the criminal justice system, parole and other state or local entities, and legal and ethical issues; discharging duties effectively—leadership, strategic planning, emerging best practices and evidence-based practi... Read More
PDF
49 p.
2008
Document 022906
Comprehensive Framework for Paroling Authorities in an Era of Evidence-Based Practice
By Campbell, Nancy M.. Campbell Consulting (Bainbridge Island, WA); National Institute of Corrections (Washington, DC).
A “framework that identifies the characteristics and competencies that paroling authorities must have to be effective in implementing evidence-based practices in the context of transition programs and services” is presented (p.8). These sections follow an executive summary: introduction; the impact of history on current reform efforts; the key elements of the parole process—the institutional, reentry, community, and discharge phases; the foundation of system effectiveness—evidence-based practice... Read More
PDF
103 p.

Related Resources

Date Title Type
2016
Document 032670
An Opinion Survey of the Community Corrections Collaborative Network: Where the Community Corrections Field Is Going and What It Needs to Get There
By Ziedenberg, Jason. National Institute of Corrections. Community Services Division. Community Corrections Collaborative Network (CCCN) (Washington, DC).
In 2014, a network of membership associations that represent community corrections practitioners—the Community Corrections Collaborative Network (CCCN)—surveyed their memberships to gauge opinions about the state of the field. The survey sought to identify what community corrections practitioners believe are the significant issues and opportunities facing the field. CCCN’s goal with the survey is to bring a fresh perspective about where the field needs to go and what community corrections will n... Read More

19 pages
2016
Document 032632
By the Numbers: Parole Release and Revocation Across 50 States
By Alper, Mariel E.. University of Minnesota Law School. Robina Institute of Criminal Law and Criminal Justice (Minneapolis, MN).
"Parole decision-making functions as a crucial mechanism channeling people in and out of prison. This report combines multiple data sources and, for the first time, provides an overview of the movements between prison and parole for each state, focusing on the decision points of parole release and parole revocation. This information allows for a comprehensive picture of each state, both as a snapshot and longitudinally. For each state, information is presented on prison and parole rates over tim... Read More

214 pages
2016
Document 032748
The Continuing Leverage of Releasing Authorities: Findings from a National Survey
By Ruhland, Ebony L.; Rhine, Edward E.; Robey, Jason P.; Mitchell, Kelly Lyn. University of Minnesota. Robina Institute of Criminal Law and Criminal Justice (Minneapolis, MN).
"With limited exceptions, there is a scarcity in the research literature directly engaging releasing authorities and the breadth of their decision-making. To a significant extent, there continues to exist a “black box” when it comes to the understanding of parole release and revocation … The survey was divided into three sections: Section A: The Structure and Administration of Parole Boards; Section B: Information Systems and Statistical Information; and Section C: Issues and Future Challenges F... Read More

55 pages
2016
Document 032607
Reducing Recidivism in Massachusetts with a Comprehensive Strategy
By Jones, Jonathan; Forman, Benjamin. Hyams Foundation (Boston, MA). Massachusetts Institute for a New Commonwealth (MassINC) (Boston, MA).
"This policy brief offers fodder for the state’s Justice Reinvestment leaders as they contemplate the changes necessary to increase the system’s focus on recidivism reduction and achieve results" (p. 2). Sections of this brief cover: key findings; the high cost of recidivism in Massachusetts-- incentive to reform, post-release supervision, step downs, and sentence length; evidence-based reentry strategies—post-release supervision, transitional housing, employment services, substance abuse and me... Read More

20 pages
2015
Document 032708
Aligning Leadership and Management Practices with EBP
By Aguilar-Amaya, Maria.
"When we think of EBP (evidence-based practices), we often think of how probation officers are applying evidence based principles into their daily supervision practices. Much of the literature out there on EBP focuses on program outcomes and supervision. There is sparse literature when it comes to EBP and leadership and management practices. The following focuses on aligning management practices with EBP" (p. 78). ... Read More

2015
Document 031521
Successful Parole and Probation Practices
By Aylward, Anmarie; Hines, Reginald (Reggie); Precythe, Anne; Washington, Gerald; Ware, Nancy M.; Sipes, Leonard A., producer. DC Public Safety (Washington, DC).
This program interviewed four directors of state parole and probation agencies who were attending a conference at the National Institute of Corrections (NIC) in Washington, DC. These directors share what works to achieve successful case completions while also protecting public safety.... Read More

30 minutes
2015
Document 031344
Probation And Parole In The United States, 2014
By Bonczar, Thomas P.; Kaeble, Danielle; Maruschak, Laura. U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) (Washington, DC).
This report presents "data on adult offenders under community supervision while on probation or parole in 2014. The report presents trends over time for the overall community supervision population and describes changes in the probation and parole populations. It provides statistics on the number of offenders entering and exiting probation and parole and the mean time served as well as national-level data on the distribution of offenders on probation or parole by sex, race or Hispanic origin, mo... Read More

21 pages
2015
Document 031427
Correctional Populations In The United States, 2014
By Glaze, Lauren; Kaeble, Danielle; Minton, Todd; Tsoutis, Anastasios. U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) (Washington, DC).
"This report presents "statistics on persons supervised by adult correctional systems in the United States at yearend 2014, including offenders supervised in the community on probation or parole and those incarcerated in state or federal prison or local jail. The report describes the size and change in the total correctional population during 2014. It details the downward trend in the correctional population and correctional supervision rate since 2007. It also examines the impact of changes in ... Read More

24 pages
2015
Document 031460
CCCN LIVE National Forum Discussion [Webinar]
By Nunes, Phil; Qazilbash, Ruby; Marlowe, Doug; Rosenberg, Steve; McDonnell, Maureen; Jenkins, Mack; Green, Katie; Burke, Susan; Crawford, Greg. Community Corrections Collaborative Network (CCCN) (Washington, DC); National Institute of Corrections (NIC) (Washington, DC).
Objectives: highlight federal resources available to community corrections and criminal justice agencies; define service needs of justice-involved individuals; showcase a local example of collaboration and resources utilization—San Diego County Probation; and engage the criminal justice system in a live discussion about the resources available, how to access funding, receive technical assistance, and to motivate our leaders to want to do more.... Read More

91 minutes
2015
Document 029659
Corrections Statistical Analysis Tool (CSAT) - Parole
By Bonczar, Thomas P.; Mulako-Wangota, Joseph. U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) (Washington, DC).
"This dynamic analysis tool allows you to examine data collected by the Annual Parole Survey on persons sentenced as adults. It includes parolees who were conditionally released to parole supervision by parole board decision, by mandatory conditional release, through other types of post-custody conditional supervision, or as the result of a sentence to a term of supervised release. You can create Custom Tables of the number, characteristics and supervision rates of adults on parole at yearend. T... Read More
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2014
Document 028317
Community Corrections Collaborative Network: Safe and Smart Ways to Solve America's Correctional Challenges
By Ziedenberg, Jason. National Institute of Corrections (NIC). Community Services Division (Washington, DC); NIC-TA#13C5022. National Institute of Corrections (NIC). Community Corrections Collaborative Network (CCCN) (Washington, DC).
The National Institute of Corrections (NIC) Community Corrections Collaborative Network (CCCN)—a network representing community corrections professionals—commissioned a position paper to explore the successes and challenges facing the community corrections field. The position paper, "Community Corrections Collaborative Network: Safe and Smart Ways To Solve America’s Correctional Challenges", finds that community corrections is a critical part of the public safety system that supervises individua... Read More
PDF
36 pages
2014
Document 028410
Swift, Certain, & Fair
BOTEC Analysis Corporation (Los Angeles, CA).
This is an excellent website for learning about this innovative approach to reducing recidivism. "About one-third of probationers and parolees fail the terms of their supervision. Over three-quarters of parolees are re-arrested within five years, and over half return to prison. High failure rates for people on probation and parole—whether for new offenses, revocations, or individuals who abscond from supervision—result in increased crime, crowded prisons and jails, and strained public budgets … ... Read More
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Available Training Opportunities

  • Starts Apr. 25, 2017 - Orientation for Parole Board Members
    This 40-hour program will help parole board members gain knowledge and skills in the area of informed decision making through evidence-based principles and practices for determining offender risk and motivation for change. It will also help them evaluate the efficacy of release plans. The program emphasizes the critical role of collaboration and partnerships with stakeholders to increase offender success and public safety. The program uses a peer interaction process. Mandatory course components include online sessions, face-to-face training, and independent work.
  • Starts Jul. 25, 2017 - Orientation for Parole Board Members
    This 40-hour program will help parole board members gain knowledge and skills in the area of informed decision making through evidence-based principles and practices for determining offender risk and motivation for change. It will also help them evaluate the efficacy of release plans. The program emphasizes the critical role of collaboration and partnerships with stakeholders to increase offender success and public safety. The program uses a peer interaction process. Mandatory course components include online sessions, face-to-face training, and independent work.
  • Starts Jun. 20, 2017 - Orientation for Probation and Parole Chief Executives
    NIC continues to recognize the value of orientation for new probation and parole executives. This 40 hour blended learning course focuses on presenting core competencies and their related skills and behaviors to assist new chief executives with both the immediate knowledge and the long-term skills needed in the areas of leadership, personnel, strategic planning, staff safety, collaboration, fiscal resources, and other organizational development issues.
  • Starts Dec. 06, 2016 - Orientation for Probation and Parole Chief Executives
    NIC continues to recognize the value of orientation for new probation and parole executives. This 40 hour blended learning course focuses on presenting core competencies and their related skills and behaviors to assist new chief executives with both the immediate knowledge and the long-term skills needed in the areas of leadership, personnel, strategic planning, staff safety, collaboration, fiscal resources, and other organizational development issues.