Parole is defined as the process of setting free prisoners prior to the end of their prison time. Inmates on parole are thereafter subjected to continuous observation to ensure that they comply with certain conditions issued out until the end of the sentence (Garton, 2003). Inmates are set on parole with a promise that they will adhere to some outlined terms and conditions so that they can spend the rest of their time outside jail. The parolees are considered to be serving their jail time and if any of the terms and conditions outlined during parole is not followed such people may be sent back to prison. The most common type of parole is medical parole. In this kind of parole, a prison is set free to serve the remaining jail time out of prison either due to humanitarian or compassionate reasons. Some of the conditions imposed on people under parole are; abstaining from alcohol and other drugs, complying and obeying the law as well as maintaining contact with the respective parole officer. All the above and several other rules must be adhered to by the parolee. However, the issue of parole differs from one system of justice to another (Garton, 2003).
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Amid various criticisms from anti-paroles, this paper will try to analyze how a parole system may be used as an incentive to reform inmates. The paper will further analyze, the advantages and disadvantages of parole, and try to reveal its utilization in the United States. However, most of the literature available for this topic happens to be against parole. Therefore, considering both sides, the best approach is not to abolish but to restructure parole in ways that gratify the various critics who share similar negative attitudes towards the system.
For instance, in Australia, parole is a matter of high controversy. A possible reason for this controversy is the extensive prevalence of ignorance among the general public concerning the specifics of parole. Some casual remarks from a current program on TV or from the local newspaper is prone to end up in the finding the public’s opinion on matters about criminals and crime as well as the criminal justice. There is a likelihood that such opinions will most likely be inclined in nature, and predisposed by information availed to them by the media. However, such information does not essentially replicate the truth of the situation concerning the general parole system (Hood & Shute, 2003).
There has been a widespread misconception that the parole system is enigmatic by nature. The public has been rallying up in the disguise of newsworthy or sensational situations to condemn the release of high profile figures, or individual absconding even when on parole, such as when murders and sex offenders are released early and sent back to the society. These are characteristically the only circumstances where the public in general has any understanding of the parole system, and the association is predisposed as a negative one.
Apart from the outlined public notion and misconception, the practical application of parole is characterized by various difficulties. The process of settling on the prisoners to be released is a process that is very subjective and involves a huge margin of error. It is impractical to guess with one hundred percent accuracy, whether a convict will or will not re-commit the crime. It is only after the prisoner commits that crime again, that the public becomes aware of the parole system, further enhancing its negative publicity.
Parole is a regular aspect of the criminal-justice system, and although the particulars relating to the situation may differ from state to state and from country to another, the common theory is more or less similar. Parole is the situation when a criminal serving jail time is allowed to serve the remaining part of their prison term in the society under certain behavior-restraining conditions and the direction of parole officers (Hood & Shute, 2003). The individual’s parole may be revoked in case any incident of misconduct is reported. Although there are several restrictions that are imposed on the parolee, the fact that one can live like a free person have been documented as the major incentive of parole. In general, the parolee is allowed to have a job at the expense of maintaining intermittent contact with the parole officer.
To the inmates, parole is viewed as a prize for excellent behavior while they in prison, which is an exemplar of one of the more incredulous outlooks of parole. T modern parole system in the United States is intended to integrate the philosophy of correctional rehabilitation, which states that the provisional freedom of parole would present an offender with a supervised and guided shift from custody to the community in conditions contributing to reform (Hoffman, 2003). The statement, however, contradicts an earlier view of parole since its values are rather idealistic, rather than cynical. The fundamental intenton of the parole system in this situation was to benefit the community by offering inmates a conditional, supervised and rehabilitative early release. The parole system was designed to be a dispensation to the prisoner, allowing for environmental influences that would depress subsequent crimes to the benefit of the community (Hoffman, 2003).
Providing inmates with parole is an enticement for them. Having strived to get parole implies that they are better behaved and reformed prisoners reaching out for a goal. For one to be on parole is an outcome of adhering to prisons rule as well as actively taking part in prison programs that are aimed at transforming the outlooks of one’s life as well as their behavior in general. Inmates with an opportunity for parole are capable of seeing an end to their sentence. This is a potent incentive to refrain from crime and finish various educational and training programs. This serves as a benefit to the community and the prisoner as well. A parolee is put back to the streets and is provided with a chance to earn a living. To the government and the economy, an inmate on parole is no longer regarded as a ward of the state. This is an economic benefit to the federal government and the state as well since the taxpayers’ money can be directed to other needy areas.
The parole program was purposely designed help inmates reintroduce themselves to society. When an offender has learned to conduct himself in a way that is tolerable by society, he is able to maintain this conduct and survive. Previous research has shown that successful parole programs reduce recidivism by nearly thirty percent, which is favorable to both the society and the parolee as well. Recidivism is when an inmate re-offends soon after being put on parole. Reduced rates of recidivism have been linked to decreased overall crime rate and enhancement of the citizen’s safety (Perrone & White, 2004).
As earlier stated, the opinion weight of parole appears to be largely negative. Nevertheless, parole was initially designed for constructive, humane causes. The idea was that being on parole would promote good behavior among the prisoners while in prison, lessen the severity of a prison term, as well as provide the prisoner with the possibility of being restored to the society. Although most of these positive aspects as still present today, it is the pessimistic side of parole, which certainly gets nearly all the attention. Possibly, the most apparent advantage of parole is that it acts as a substitute to incarceration. It the mounting crisis of prison overcrowding. According to Travis, “if parole and probation were not offered as alternatives to imprisonment…the jail and prison population would grow fourfold” (Travis, 1996). Bearing in mind that it is projected that it costs approximately $50,000 per annum to accommodate an inmate in a maximum-security prison; it would be against any government’s standards to quadruple such expenditures.
One of the most overlooked and obvious point is that an inmate on parole still suffers the punishment for crime. The offenders are not merely set free to act as they please. Nevertheless, all parolees are strictly supervised, and being under parole separates them from other free citizens (Travis, 1996). There are several stringent restrictions they are supposed to adhere to and any violation could guarantee their instant return to prison. This implies that parolees may be locked up for actions which would not be punishable by law. However, the benefit is that parolees have the chance to rehabilitate to the society, something that is impossible while in prison. Although still constrained in their movements and activities, parolees apparently enjoy more freedom than their fellow inmates. The presence of such freedom grants them the incentive to exhibit good conduct, equally while in prison so as to be granted parole as well as while on parole in order to evade being hurled back to prison.
The Parole system was formerly established in the mid-1800s as an option to imprisonment when it was evident that imprisonment was inadequately successful at thwarting more criminal behavior by offenders (Travis, 1996). It was decided that a reform system would be more efficient than imprisonment in generating more law-abiding citizens. This new reform system, allowed prisoners increased levels of freedom in addition to other benefits as an incentive for good behavior and productivity. Although, there have been several modifications due to changing legal economic and political situations, the early parole system laid the foundation for the modern system of parole used today.
Since its introduction into the US criminal-justice system, the parole system has received mixed reactions and criticisms, with most of the anti-parole puzzled by the procedures concerned, while others request obliteration of the system. A number of these criticisms surfaced appeared as one-sided, prejudiced calls for the abolition of parole on the foundation that “a sizeable fraction of offenders – as many as 50 percent - are psychopathic, and that their doings and behavior may not be changed by anything, both in the short and long term, leave alone the administration of parole. This is apparently a statement intended to shock the public into believing that most of the inmates are delirious lunatics who will cause mayhem in the community immediately they are put on parole. Additionally, the quoted figures along with the opinions provided are not supported by any kind reference or statistic, and therefore, it is safe to downgrade such statements as they are similar to the letter of outrage posted to local media houses by people who are mainly ignorant of the particulars of the parole system (Perrone & White, 2004).
Of course, there have been criticisms of parole emanating from well-versed government departments and official bodies. One such instance of disparagement was raised in 1980 by the Australian Law Reform Commission, as a component of the paper meant to elicit comments and promote discussions to be considered by the Commission prior to setting up its last report in regard to sentencing federal offenders. The paper requested for the abolition of parole or the as well as paving way for substantial reforms that would make the system more consistent and fair. A number of factors were delineated by this paper as being the major contributor to a failed Australian parole system. First is the criticism that parole has the consequence of creating indeterminacy and uncertainty in the punishment of an offender. Secondly, parole is condemned for the inconsistent assumption that a prisoner’s conduct can be envisaged at all once he or she is free, and particularly that the parolee will maintain the same behavior and conduct as while in prison.
According to the Law Reform Commission, the next main negative aspect of parole revolves around the secrecy adjoining the proceedings of parole. Any decisions made concerning the prisoner cannot be reviewed and hence have a significant impact on the freedom of the concerned individual. Over the years, parole has been labeled “charade” with the implication that the public is no longer deceived into believing that the prisoner will serve their full jail term. The reality is that offenders were expected to spend only a short period in prison. Amid such criticisms, the Commission established that it would be extremely difficult to abolish the parole system therefore radical reforms were required. The proposition for reform basically dealt with the censures earlier mentioned, implying that parole should be consistent throughout Australia and prisoners should be granted more civil liberty in regard to hearings (Hoffman, 2003).
The most important purpose of parole is to offer a period of supervised and restricted transition between prison and liberty in the society. This obviously has inborn risks, but the risk should be evaluated against the risk of discharging a prisoner at the end of the prison term with no period of transition. By parole, the risk to the society is limited as it promotes the rehabilitation of offenders, thus saving the “community from the aftermath of recidivism and the expenses of punishing it”.
Although the negative face to parole appears to surmount over the positive, it is necessary to acknowledge that the apparent faults of a system are remotely more prone to be overshadowed by the positive aspects. Nevertheless, if the system was faultless, there would be little or no need to assess it. Considering the countless appeals to abolish parole, the system has, however, been retained after investigation, and therefore, it can be concluded that the system has to it more advantages than drawbacks. The places where parole was abolished experienced uncontrollable massive costs and prison overpopulation, leading to the preservation of parole in other countries and states, which were deliberating on its removal.
Like any other judicial system, parole has its weaknesses, and amid major reforms, it will continue to draw criticism. It is easier to overcome procedural difficulties but the main problem is on how to ascertain who should be paroled and when. In anticipation of better and more effective methods of carrying out this assessment, parole will continue to be criticized for being too compassionate, ineffective and for dejecting the court’s authority when sentencing the offender. Awaiting the development of more efficient methods for modifying or predicting the behavior of the offender, the current application of parole is properly reasonable as it can be. Travis (1996) states quite succinctly that supervision by the community itself characterizes a balance between the community interests in curbing imminent criminality and an individual interest in evading imprisonment. This is an equilibrium which can only be disturbed by the major reform of the modern parole system (Travis, 1996).