Conservative’s Proposal to Abolish Parole Fatally Flawed

Published: Thu 18 Sep 2014 10:47 AM
Conservative’s Proposal to Abolish Parole Fatally Flawed
Date : 18th September 2014
The Conservative Party’s proposal to abolish parole doesn't stack up, however which way you look at it, concludes Kim Workman in Rethinking Crime and Punishment latest blog, ‘Abolishing Parole and Other Crazy Stuff’ at
The most articulate advocate for the abolition of parole is lawyer Stephen Franks, who recommends that New Zealand follow the example of the US Federal Prison system, which ended most parole in 1996. He claims that
• There is no evidence that prison populations would explode, if parole were cut back.
• Ending criminal expectation of parole dramatically increases certainty, which will act as a deterrent to reoffending; – which in turn would result in judges reducing sentence lengths.
• Because much of the serious crime is committed by a relatively small population of career criminals, the change would affect serious offenders being released early from prison and reoffending.
• There is no evidence that parole works any better to reduce reoffending than supervision at the end of the judge-given sentence.
“Rethinking was intrigued by this claim, and decided to check out the Federal system for ourselves” said spokesperson Kim Workman. We found that:
• The federal prison population has escalated from under 25,000 inmates in 1980 to over 219,000 today.
• In 1986, only 50 percent received a prison sentence, over 37 percent received probation, and most of the remainder received a fine. By 2011, more than 90 percent of convicted federal offenders were sentenced to prison, while only 10 percent got probation.
• At the federal level, all offenders must serve at least 87 percent of their sentences, (due to the restrictions on parole) while, at the state level, most serve a lower percentage and nonviolent offenders often serve less than 50 percent of their time.
• The average federal prison sentence in 2011 was 52 months, generally higher than prison sentences at the state level for similar crime types.
• This prison population growth has resulted in Federal prisons are currently operating at between 35 and 40 percent above their rated capacity.
None of Stephen Franks claims stack up. The abolition of parole has been a major driver in driving up the prison population, and creating a totally unsafe and ineffective system.
The question of whether or not parole reduces offending, depends on the quality of supervision provided. There are two key findings. First, prisoners who are released without conditions are more likely to reoffend, to reoffend more quickly, to reoffend more often and to commit more serious offences than offenders released conditionally into the community.
Second, parole supervision that actively meets the prisoner’s rehabilitative or reintegrative needs, is more likely to reduce reoffending than supervision which focuses only on whether the prisoners complies with the conditions of their parole. The trick then, is to make parole a meaningful experience, by providing an equal measure of accountability and support.
The difficulty with the policies of Conservative and ACT, is that their sole aim is to find ways of keeping people in prison for longer, in the mistaken belief that such policies act as a deterrent. They don’t , and there is no evidence to show that they do.

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