Kansas has become a leader in a spreading national effort to make parole more effective and useful – to reduce violations and reincarcerations as it protects the public and seeks to help more offenders go straight, reports the New York Times. A similar transformation of the parole system has begun in several states including Arizona, California, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, New York and Texas. It has been prompted in part by financial concerns: more than one-third of all prison admissions are for parole violations, helping to drive an unsustainable surge in prison-building. It has also been driven by evidence that conventional parole supervision is often a waste of resources.
An influential study in 2005 by the Urban Institute concluded that parole supervision had little effect on the rate at which ex-prisoners were re-arrested. As part of a get-tough spirit, a number of states in recent decades adopted mandatory sentences and ended the historic discretion of parole boards over release dates. Yet every state still has post-release supervision for most offenders, averaging three years with stiff conditions like not consuming alcohol, having urine tests, abiding by curfews, holding a job and meeting regularly with a parole officer. The most widespread change is the use of risk assessments that help officials concentrate on those deemed most likely to commit new crimes.