Running Head: Using Parole to Control Inmate Behavior and the Effects of No Early Release
The article examines the use of parole as a means of controlling behavior. The community, prison administration and the inmates benefit from parole. Prisoners who are eligible for parole will endeavor to be in their best behavior. They will be more willing to participate in educational and vocational programs and they will be more co-operative with the administrators. Prisoners need support and follow-up once they are out of prison to avoid the chances of re-offending. The parole board has the responsibility of recommending the person eligible for parole. They use different methods to check for eligibility. They are however faced with different challenges. Some states have abolished parole and they have put in place fixed sentences. Prisoners adjust to prison life differently depending on several factors. First time offenders usually have a hard time adjusting to prison life. Some prisoners’ behavior will be determined by the time they spend in prison, quality of life they had before and whether they are habitual offenders.
Each person has his or her own opinion concerning parole. Those who are against it tend to have many reasons. Their main fear is that those who are released from prison before they have completed their time are likely to engage in criminal activities. Their fears are not unfounded since there have been several instances where this has been recorded. However, there are those among them who are opposed to parole because of the opinion of others especially from the media. Those who advocate for parole also have their reasons. The tax payers shoulder the burden of maintaining criminals in prison. Offenders can be released under parole and they can do community work instead. Parole decongests prisons and eases the work of prison administrators (Morris, et al, 2010). The prisoner benefits since he or she gets a chance to continue with life outside prison though in a restricted manner. Before one is recommended for parole, he or she has to maintain good behavior while still in prison. Prison administrators can use this as an incentive to prisoners for self-improvement and to control behavior in prisons.
There are different kinds of prisoners. There are those who are serving life sentences, others are on death row and others serve different times. There are also seasoned prisoners; those who are habitual offenders and they are used to serving time. Others however, are there for the first time. Some have committed serious crimes and have no regrets about it while others are merely petty offenders. These are some of the factors that will determine how prisoners behave while serving time. Another important factor is the quality of life that the inmates had before they were imprisoned and the one they expect to have once they are released. Hopelessness and low standards of living do not motivate prisoners to be in their best behavior. They do not see the meaning and value of behaving and controlling themselves in order for them to be released early or be put in parole. Those who have families and jobs to go to are more co-operative. They will strive for ways to seek an early release since they have something to go back to. The indigenous approach proposes that deprivations influence how a prisoner responds to imprisonment (Dhami, et al, 2007).
Prisoners who show good behavior and those who display positive signs of rehabilitation are the ones who are usually granted parole. Prisoners become more disciplined while in prison so that they can get the chance to be on parole. They will collaborate more with the prison administrators and they will be willing to take programs that are offered to them. This is because parole grants them the freedom they are deprived while in jail. When they are released on parole, they still have to follow guidelines to ensure that they will follow the set laws. They are assigned parole officers who are responsible for ensuring that they live in accordance with the law. They have to complete any community work that have been assigned to them and show for any meetings when they are requested. They also have to avoid committing any violations that will see them go back to prison. This includes possession of drugs and weapons and hanging out with gangs. If they violate any laws, they can be forced to go back to prison and they can be given a more severe sentence.
The parole board has been given the mandate of granting parole to prisoners. The board reviews the performance record of the prisoners and they also conduct interviews to make sure that they are eligible. Although many prisoners may be eligible for parole, very few are granted. Offenders find it hard to be on their best behavior. Some of them will continue being violent and engaging in major offences while still in prison. Some of them are habitual offenders and once they are granted parole, they will violate it and they will be arrested again. The parole board continues to lose its power and instead it has been replaced with truth-in-sentencing, which advocates for fixed sentences. Fixed sentencing increases the amount of time spent in prison especially for dangerous criminals. Unlike parole, it is not an incentive for good behavior. Abolishment of parole reduces the prisoners’ desire for rehabilitation.
Fixed sentencing has reduced the time that some criminals face and this has in turn increased their don’t-care mentality. The prisoners do not try to be in their best behavior because they are assured that they will serve little time and whatever decision that the judge makes is final. States which have abolished parole are therefore unlucky in this end. Parole boards utilize the prisoners’ information after sentencing. They have the capability of knowing the risk the prisoner faces if he or she is to be released. Research done indicated that inmates who have been denied the chance of early release portray poor participation in program and they have more disciplinary issues. They are also more likely to return to prison after serving their time. (Kuziemko, 2007).
There are several challenges faced by the parole boards when granting parole. There are habitual offenders who have learnt all about paroles. They know how to manipulate the system and they know how to lie and manipulate the system so that they can improve their performance records. Such prisoners are usually not fully rehabilitated and once they are released, they are more likely to re-offend. There is also the likelihood that they may release the prisoners too early before they are fully rehabilitated. In addition to this, they also have to deal with critics and those who oppose parole. The situation is made worse by re-offenders who show the rest of the society that there is no need for parole.
With the increasing number of offenders released on parole and no subsequent increase in the number of parole officers, there is no effective follow up to ensure that the offenders do not re-offend. Parole officers have a lot of people to follow and they might not do so effectively. This is indeed a great challenge to them. Offenders need jobs to keep them occupied and prevent them from making other offences. There is a decrease in employment opportunities and this means that there is nothing keeping them busy. Although there are educational opportunities in prisons, few prisoners take advantage of this and those who had gone to prison with minimal education come out the same way. Education and employment go hand-in-hand (Listwan, et al, 2006). Prisoners need the promise of opportunity once they are granted parole so that they can have a way to make a living.
Life with no parole
Legislators are constantly modifying laws and in a bid to fight crime, they are increasing the number of offences, which are not eligible for parole. Although it is a better alternative to the death penalty, offenders are now serving life sentences for crimes, which they could have previously served several years in prison. This is especially so for habitual offenders who face the risk of serving without parole. Life without parole may also be referred to as death by incarceration since the offender will spend the rest of his natural life in prison. A significant number of offenders have been handed sentences, which exceed life expectancy. With these changes being implemented, it has become a reality that there are some states that will not allow early release to prisoners. There are instances where life without parole is the only option such as for people who have committed murder. However, people who have been accused of kidnappings, battery and robbery are now facing life without parole. This highlights the prison’s role as centers of rehabilitation. The judiciary seems to have no confidence on the prison system to reform the offenders (Nellis, 2010). Inmates who are relatively new and are facing life without parole often suffer from mental disorders.
Juveniles serving life sentences are usually hard hit. This is especially so for those who have committed crimes other than homicide and they have been tried as adults. Even those who are reformed are denied the chance to rejoin the community and prove to them that they are fit. They miss the chance of growing up normally and their life experience will be shaped in prison. Their character, personality and attitude will be influenced by fellow inmates and this can impact their lives negatively. This is especially so for first time offenders who have no experience in crime. The juveniles lose hope in life and in the justice system. Some of them will have committed crimes out of ignorance or influence and when they are handed such heavy sentences, they lose hope in life and they are not willing to improve their lives. Such juveniles will be unwilling to take educational programs and other educational programs since they see no need to do so.
Advocators of this system note that the prisoners are a danger to the society and they should not be liberated. Others support this option because they believe the offenders will suffer more for the crimes they have committed. Prison life is not easy and the emotional and mental torture that a person undergoes is harder to deal with than physical pain. The limits of freedom and the possibility of living without one’s loved ones is enough torture for some of the prisoners. However, others have no remorse of the crimes they have committed. They have nothing to look back to and they care about no one and so they will not experience the same amount of torture. For some inmates, life in prison with no early release is torture and it is worse than the death sentence. They wake up each day knowing that they will know no other life and no other home apart from the prison. Some of them become depressed and they suffer emotional stress.
For some offenders the sentence is warranted and it might even seem lenient because of the nature of the crime that they have committed. This is particularly for those who have committed capital murder. There is a benefit to this option. People who have been wrongly convicted have adequate time to look for evidence to support their case, appeal the sentence they have been given and defend themselves. This is unlike the death penalty, which does not accord prisoners the time do so. Prisoners who know that they will probably spend the rest of their lives in prison adjust better. They have less disciplinary issues and they are willing to participate in programs. They also get better jobs in prison and they are less likely to be involved in violent behavior. Studies show that prisoners who are eligible for parole are more likely to commit violent acts and other major assaults.
Using parole is an effective way to influence good behavior in prison. A majority of those in prison are willing to do anything to get out of prison and so they will be willing to co-operate with the prison administrators. The parole board has a huge task in determining who is genuinely eligible for parole. Some inmates portray perfect records of good behavior while they are in prison but they are more likely to re-offend while others are granted parole when they are not fully reformed. Juveniles have a better chance to reform since they are young. They should therefore be offered this option. Life without parole seems like a better option than execution and it receives much support from the society. The community and the government should continue supporting prisons and still see them as a place of rehabilitation and reform. This will also instill confidence and self-esteem in the inmates and they will be willing to reform. There should be better support for the prisoners who are rejoining the community. They should be offered support in finding jobs so that they can better their lives.
Dhami, K. M., Ayton, P., Loewenstein, G. (2007). Adaptation to imprisonment indigenous or imported. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 34 (8), 1085 – 1100
Kuziemko, I. (2007). Going off parole: How the elimination of discretionary prison release affects the social cost of crime. NBER Working Paper Series, w13380
Listwan, J. S., Cullen, T. F., & Latessa, J. E. (2006). How to prevent prisoner re-entry programs from failing: Insights from evidence-based corrections. Federal Probation, 70 (3) 19 – 23
Morris, G. R., Longmire, R. D., Vollum, B. J., Vollum, S. (2010). Institutional misconduct and differential parole eligibility among capital inmates. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 37 (4) 417 – 438
Nellis, A. (2010). Throwing away the key: The expansion of life without parole sentences in the United States. Federal Sentencing Reporter, 23 (1) 27 – 32