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Parole reduces reoffending

Parole reduces reoffending - Rethinking Crime and Punishment

Recent report comments from Garth McVicar, that making offenders serve their entire sentence was more effective than preventing reoffending, are not supported by the evidence, says Kim Workman, Director of Rethinking Crime and Punishment.

“I do not have recent statistics, but for all prisoners released in 2004/2005 who were not on parole, 43% were reconvicted after 12 months. For those released on parole the reconviction rate was 30%. In other words, the reconviction rate for those on parole was 25% lower. That seemed a good argument for retaining parole. While at present, probation staff can do not much more than ensure parolees comply with parole conditions, they may also be from time to time, be a ‘lifeline’ in assisting prisoners to find work, accommodation, and assist by referring ex-prisoners for rehabilitation, or accessing agency support.”

If Sensible Sentencing wants further evidence, shifts in USA parole policy tell an important story. In the liberal 1970’s and 80’s, prisoners got parole after serving a third of their sentence. The policy was tightened in the 1980’s following the notorious Willie Horton incident, when Horton kidnapped a Maryland couple, raped the woman and stabbed the man while on furlough. Sound familiar? Furloughs disappeared and parole rates plummeted from 65% to 45%. A strict “Truth in Sentencing” policy was subsequently introduced.

By then, more than half of those being released were inmates who had served the full term of their sentences, and were then being released directly to the streets without supervision or assistance.

They had little incentive to stay out of trouble - there was no balance of a sentence hanging over their head, no possibility of going back to jail unless they were caught committing a new crime. They could not be held accountable for their actions, or offered treatment or support.

The Result?
The recidivism rate rose dramatically. A Boston Bar Association study found that 44 percent of people being released from prison were returning to jail within three years.

Reducing Recidivism
Between 2000 and 2001, the parole rate climbed back up to 65 percent, and the recidivism rate dropped.

The Lesson
If there is a lesson in all this, it is the need to guard against over-liberal parole provision, ensure that released prisoners are held accountable for their behaviour post-release, and that they receive community support when reintegrating into the community.


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