A Parole System ‘Report Card’ Gives Most States Failing Grades

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The Prison Policy Initiative (PPI) has released a report card on states’ parole systems.

And at least one thing is clear: PPI is one tough grader.

Wyoming’s B-minus was the best grade among the 34 states that have not abolished parole. Four states got Cs, six states got Ds, and the rest either got an F for having few of the elements of a fair and equitable parole system, or a zero for having eliminated the option of release on parole.

The PPI report acknowledges that state parole systems vary so much — from having no discretionary parole to having standards that make release either presumptive or nearly impossible — that it is almost impossible to compare them.

Nevertheless, the report card is based on a point system derived from a wish list of best practices. For example, does a state let prisoners seeking parole meet face to face with board members? If yes, scorers add 30 points.

On the other hand, if a state requires parolees to pay supervision or drug-testing fees, or allows a board to extend the period of supervision past the end of the imposed sentence, five points are subtracted. Each state’s score is explained in an extensive appendix and methodology.

Wyoming’s score of 83, or B-minus, was based on high marks for parole preparation — helping people early in their prison term lay the groundwork for a successful parole review, and providing access to the records a parole board will rely on to make its decision — and mostly good scores for the way it conducts parole hearings.

“The parole system of Wyoming is far from perfect,” the report states, but “the consistency across the parole process is something the state should be recognized for.”

PPI’s overriding goal, its report said, was to recognize that “parole systems should give every incarcerated person ample opportunity to earn release and have a fair, transparent process for deciding whether to grant it.”

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