History of Parole the Philosophy Book Report

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Ladow. Similar boards were provisioned for federal prisons not in the penitentiary category. Each prison was also provided with a parole officer to supervise parolees during their community corrections phase. Inmates became eligible for parole after serving a third of their total sentence -- by 1915 this was expanded to mean fifteen years for inmates serving life sentences -- contingent on the decisions and good graces of the local parole board. The system served well to mitigate the very problems addressed by judicial suspension of sentences, but suffered from an overall lack of standardization stemming from the fact that multiple, independent boards existed and did not attempt to synchronize their decisions.

In 1930, the Board of Parole was created by congressional legislation to become the sole arbiter of parole decisions across the entire federal system. The Board consisted of three members appointed by the Attorney General to serve indefinitely, and was certainly a major step towards standardizing parole decisions. Five years earlier, in 1925, the Federal Parole Act had created federal parole officer positions independent of individual institutions, though it was not until 1927 that the first federal parole officers were appointed. In 1927 there were only five officers, and in 1928 two more were added. In this time the Board, as well as the parole officers, remained under the jurisdiction of Federal Bureau of Prisons (FBOP).

In their first year of operation, 1931, the Board of Parole experimented with their work and worked to streamline the parole process. Initially, all three members traveled together between prisons to conduct parole hearings, but it was soon understood that this process consumed much of the Board's time in travel. Afterwards, it became practice for single members of the commission to travel independently to conduct hearings, and consensus on parole decisions was not drawn until the Board was re-convened and the member in question had reported to the Board in full. A large number of paroles were granted in that first year, the vast majority to violators of the Prohibition Act, but the number soon tapered off once the Prohibition Act was repealed. Meanwhile, parole officers had been tasked with a more extensive social-work-type caseload than ever before, requiring extensive data collection on parolees' backgrounds, social situation, living accommodations, occupation, etc.; additionally parole officers were tasked with visiting parolees in the community, at their residences and places of business, to improve supervision and relations. It was in this time that the philosophy of parole officers going unarmed was first developed. The theory went that a parole officer was primarily involved in social work -- in the effort to assist a convict's successful re-integration with society -- and not with direct law enforcement. Though the philosophy has changed over time -- today weapons training is provided for parole and probation officers during their recruitment -- only one officer of the Board of Parole has ever been killed in the line of duty: United States Probation Officer (USPO) Thomas Gahl was shot and killed in 1986 by a mentally ill parolee under his supervision during a routine home visit.

The general process of parole, whose constituent elements have survived in some form or another as long as the parole system, was:

1. Application for Parole: which is the responsibility of the inmate applicant via forms provided by his case manager.

2. Information about the Prisoner: collected by the Board in conference with prison officials.

3. Hearings: conducted by one representative member of the Board.

4. Disposition: which includes the full Board voting.

5. Conditions of Parole: decided by consensus of the Board, as well as the judge at time of sentencing.

6. Supervision: under the jurisdiction of USPOs.

About a decade after its inception the Board of Parole was re-assigned away from the FBOP and to the direct supervision of the U.S. Court system. Also, in that time many politicians and scholars remarked on the success of the Board's first ten years and the project was widely considered favorable to American justice.

In 1972, by which time the Board had expanded to eight full-time members, an internal re-organization plan within the Board first required standardized criteria for making parole decisions as well as written reasons for denial of parole and an administrative appeal process. Also, the Board's jurisdiction was re-organized into five districts, each headed by an appointed Board member and supported
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by five hearing examiners. By then the Board of Parole had been renamed the United States Parole Commission, and its members were known as Commissioners.

The watershed moment of the Commission's life came in 1984 with the passage of the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984 (CCCA). The CCCA created a United States Sentencing Commission -- on which the chairman of the Parole Commission serves as an ex-officio, non-voting member -- whose business it was to develop and recommend determinate, standardized sentences for all crimes under U.S. statute. With the introduction of determinate sentences, the need for a Parole Commission was academic, and the Commission began a phase out program for itself which has not yet been completed.

It becomes necessary at this point to define three types of community corrections initiatives in use in the United States today. Parole and probation are the oldest of the three, and most akin to each other in that both are served in lieu of incarceration at an institution. Probation is an alternative sentencing option whereby less serious offenses are punished by a period of community corrections and supervision as opposed to prison. Parole is a similar system whereby an inmate having served part of his sentence inside an institution is remanded to community corrections and supervision to serve out the rest of his time. The third type of community corrections, created by the CCCA, is known as supervised release, and is a system whereby inmates are sentenced to determinate lengths of prison time followed by determinate lengths of community corrections and supervision. The prisoner's sentence is not reduced to allow for community corrections, but rather community corrections is an appendage to said sentence, although a certain amount of good-conduct time (about 15%) is usually awarded as a reduction of determinate prison terms, but not of supervised release terms.

The services of the Parole Commission -- whose staff has been drastically reduced from its heyday -- were retained, however, in order to avoid an ex-post facto suit from inmates sentenced under the "old law" (the parole system in place before the CCCA). Inmates sentenced before 1 November 1987 remain under the Commission's jurisdiction, are eligible for parole and must be supervised by parole officers during the community corrections phase of their sentence. Also under the Commission's jurisdiction are inmates repatriated to the U.S. under foreign transfer treaties, state defendants accepted to the U.S. Marshal's Service Witness Protection Program, military inmates sentenced under military law, which still calls for traditional parole, and the responsibility for supervision of "old law" DC Code inmates: inmates sentenced for crimes in the District of Columbia prior to 5 August 2000.

Supervised release differs from parole mainly by being determinate. However, supervised release is currently under the jurisdiction of the United States Probation Office, while parole remains under the Parole Commission. Both systems, however, incorporate a system of conditions by which a parolee -- to use the term inclusively -- must abide. Failure to abide by these conditions may result in modification of the terms or conditions of community corrections, or in revocation of community corrections and a remanding to the custody of the FBOP. The conditions of supervised release fall into three categories:

1. Standard Conditions which are imposed in every case

a. Including restriction on the possession of firearms and illegal drugs; the requirement to comply with all state and federal laws; submission to DNA collection; payment of all fines and restitutions imposed by the court; the responsibility to take care of one's family; supervision by a USPO

2. Special Conditions which are imposed according to specific cases

a. Such as abstention from drugs and alcohol for those with a history of abuse; restricted or monitored computer access for computer crimes; occupational restrictions for bank and insurance fraud cases; etc.

3. Additional Conditions which refer to restricted community access for specific high-risk parolees

a. Including curfews, and electronic monitoring

Federal statute codifies lengths of supervised release terms according to the type and gravity of the instant offense. Felonies are categorized into five types -- A through E -- with the most serious cases meriting up to five years of supervised release. Additionally, certain crimes -- such as terrorism or any sex offense -- have provisions for supervised release for any term of years or life. In the event that supervised release is revoked, a judge has wide discretion to impose a new sentence of a term up to the original time served in…

Sources Used in Documents:


1. U.S. Courts (n.d.) Charter of the Probation and Pretrial Services System. Retrieved from U.S. Courts website: http://www.uscourts.gov/fedprob/history/index.html

2. Net Industries (2007) Probation and Parole: History, Goals, and Decision-making: Origins of Probation and Parole. Retrieved from Law Library -- American Law and Legal Information website: http://law.jrank.org/pages/1817/Probation-Parole-History-Goals-Decision-Making-Origins-probation-parole.html

3. Zebulon Brockway (n.d.) In Wikipedia. Retrieved 6 April 2010, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zebulon_Brockway

4. Alexander Maconochie (n.d.) In Wikipedia. Retrieved 6 April 2010 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Maconochie_%28penal_reformer%29

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