The procedure known as “parole” in the criminal justice system has been in practice in the United States since the late 1800’s when it was begun in a reformatory in Elmira, New York. It’s process provides for early conditional release from prison for convicted felons, after part of their prison sentence has been served, and they are found to be eligible for parole based on factors such as: conduct while incarcerated, rehabilitative efforts/progress, type of offense, and remorse for their crime.Its use has been expanded to many states, and today has become the primary way by which offenders are released from prisons and correctional institutions.
Unfortunately, parole is not always rewarded to worthy inmates, thus putting society at risk for repeated crimes that often outweigh the benefits of parole, therefore, parole should be abolished and inmates should be made to complete their full sentences. Prison inmates are usually sentenced by the severity of their crimes, as well as their mental intention at the time of the act.For example: a person who commits murder intentionally expects to take the life of another in reckless disregard for human life, and knows that the act itself which he or she has decided to commit, will surely bring about death. However, in the case of manslaughter, which is also the taking of a human life, there is no actual intention to bring about death.
The act that lead to someone’s death, is measured by the circumstances that made the person kill such as self-defense, or a crime of passion because the killer was provoked in such a way that a chain of events lead to violence which eventually resulted in peril.Because of the difference in how these crimes are carried out, inmates are sentenced differently; some are sentenced to life in prison, and others are sentenced to several years and will be eligible for parole after serving part of their sentence. In lieu of inmates completing their full sentences, parole tries to achieve releasing inmates early based on the idea that the inmate has been sufficiently punished, and should be given the opportunity to become a law abiding citizen, capable of functioning in our society with adequate supervision.Although parole attempts to carefully screen inmates prior to granting early release, their decisions often do not merit wise choices.
As a social worker, I experienced these situations with my own clients who were parolees seeking support mechanisms through counseling and referral service. Unfortunately, most parolees I worked with were not in touch with new technology, lacked communication skills, and had no money to travel to and from interviews, nor proper clothing. They quickly relapsed into old habits such as drug trafficking, stealing, and burglary to survive their need for money, food, and other amenities.It is obvious that hardships such as these make parolees repeat offenders.
They end up back in prison to complete the remainder of their sentence, and sometimes serve out new sentences for new crimes committed. The parole board does not sufficiently scrutinize the job readiness of the inmates they plan to release, and things such as verbal and writing skills are ignored. An inmate can not be expected to survive as a parolee if he is not prepared to market himself for employment.If there is no job, there is no money, and if there is no money desperation sets in and makes room for crime such as robbing, burglary, and drug trafficking.
This is not to say that all inmates are unqualified to be released because of poor job readiness, but other inmates who are job ready lack responsibility and sane judgement because of poor rehabilitation programs short in duration, or not available. Screening is also poor because parole boards have not come up with a better way to verify the sincerity of the inmate when he goes before the panel.For example: there are plenty of inmates that have gone through the parole system before and wound up back in prison, that alert other inmates as to the expectations of the parole board. They help prospective parolees to rehearse how they are going to answer crucial questions, which will determine release.
A parolee once said to me, “man, as long as you know what they wanna hear from you, and you do the li’l things that look good like takin’ up a few li’l classes here and there, you be a’ight when you go to the board.This type of rehearsed behavior on the part of some violent convicted felons seriously defeats the purpose of adequate screening for parole when the moral character and remorse of the prisoner are not honest. On the other hand, people argue that parole officials are not psychics and have no way of knowing which inmates are honest and which are not. Although this is true, there are experts such as psychologists that can properly screen these inmates through special battery tests designed to evaluate character in all its areas such as honesty, capacity, and intelligence.
Other screening procedures used to determine which inmates will be less of a threat to society include comparison of past criminal records, and severity of the offense causing the incarceration. Again, inmates who know their possibilities for parole are scarce, often deliberately take up programs that are appealing to the parole board to help encourage decisions in their favor. In reality, the inmate is simply thinking about freedom and cares very little about reintegrating himself into society as a functional law abiding citizen.Other inmates have committed non-violent crimes such as forgery while embezzling funds, and are released on the assumption that they are not a threat to society if released.
What happens with these offenders is that they have learned new crimes in prison, such as extortion, theft techniques and other intellectual ways of deceiving people to obtain what they want. Eventually, they too create a threat to society. Parole board panels are overlook these flaws in screening an inmate based on his background, ignoring any development of new habits while incarcerated.Although statistics from state parole commissions show large numbers of recidivism (repeated offenses), parole boards fail to come up with a solution to improve screening techniques.
This deficiency puts society at risk for crime once again. Time served in prison does not necessarily reform a prisoner. Too often inmates are not properly rehabilitated from their faults, and instead are further punished by being put in isolated cells for days, or months at a time, and their emotional and mental state are further aggravated.The paroled clients on my caseload at work often expressed how their mind would race with violent thoughts, and confusing desperation while in a small, unfurnished, cold cell in isolation, and being isolated from any other human being or activity twenty-three hours a day.
They felt they were not taught how to cohabit in a violence-free environment, nor were they offered psychotherapy to deal with violent confrontations. By not having a proper support system, the parole board is releasing angry, short tempered inmates that can go off like a ticking time bomb when they come upon every day challenges in the outside world.Opponents of abolishing parole may feel that longer prison sentences would create angrier criminals and that parole in conjunction with rehabilitative programs would provide an opportunity to function in a less hostile environment again, but I disagree. Parolees will not function in either setting of prison life or society if they have not learned self-control, if they feel no remorse for their crimes, and are not properly rehabilitated in prison itself.
Many people are against abolishing parole because it would overcrowd prisons and cost taxpayers more money to keep each inmate in prison serving their entire sentence. In addition, waiting lists would be created for new offenders for lack of vacant cells, and would triple waiting lists already in effect in some states. Opposing views would rather have their tax dollars spent on rehabilitative programs which they feel will help foster more functional parolees.While I agree these views are true to some degree, I also feel it is important to realize that taxpayer dollars are spent on aiding third world countries in astronomical numbers for the same reasons we pay tax dollars to house inmates, which is to avoid injustice.
For example: the United States government not too long ago was sending in our soldiers into Bosnia to try to bring peace, and millions of dollars were spent as they dropped million-dollar missals, and destroyed military defense tools to defend themselves from retaliation.I wonder why instead, our government does not spend this money on defending its own people from its own criminals, by building new prisons. Obviously, our government has the funds, and instead of using them to protect the rights of foreigners, they should be using these millions of dollars to better protect our society, which is filled with promising children, young adults, and seniors who brought us into this generation. We deserve to be protected as much as any other human race.
Our tax dollars spent on housing inmates are a lot cheaper for us to pay when one considers the cost of irreparable pain and suffering, of a victim who falls prey to a parolee who had no intention of reversing his or her former lifestyle and recommitted their life to crime. One cannot put a price tag on scarred lives. It would be worth every penny to keep these criminals behind bars until they have completed their full sentences, if it meant even saving one innocent life, or sparing someone an unforgettable damaging experience.In conclusion, parole serves to benefit the inmate who is seeking his or her freedom, while society seldomly benefits from progress or efforts implemented by parolees in the community.
We must understand that parole is a privilege, not a right. We must take into consideration that if almost half of the population that is released on parole returns to prison; parole is not working and should be abolished. Law abiding citizens have earned their right to freedom, and criminals have earned their right to confinement, and should remain that way, as sentenced.