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Parole Violations and Revocations in California: Analysis and Suggestions for Action

NCJ Number
Federal Probation Volume: 73 Issue: 1 Dated: June 2009 Pages: 2-11
Date Published
June 2009
10 pages
This report presents findings and recommendations from a 3-year study of the causes and consequences of parole violations and revocations in California.
For 2003-2004, 66 percent of all parolees in California returned to prison within 3 years, 27 percent for a new criminal conviction and 39 percent for a technical or administrative violation, which can result from new crimes or violations of parole conditions. This compares with 40 percent for the national average. Part of the explanation for California's high return rate for parolees is its unique sentencing and parole system; for the most part, California has a mandatory parole release system. As a result, most offenders are released after they have served their original court-imposed sentence, less any accumulated good-time credit. For approximately 80 percent of inmates in California, there is no appearance before a parole board to determine whether they are fit to return to the community; instead, they are automatically released to formal parole supervision, usually for 3 years. California's parole population is now so large and its parole agents so overburdened that parolees who pose serious threats to public safety are often not closely monitored, and those motivated to "go straight" cannot get the help they need. Theses findings suggest a number of policy and research implications. First, parole supervision and services should concentrate on the first 6 months after release. Second, the use of early and earned discharge from parole should be expanded. Third, parolee risk for recidivism should be matched to supervision levels. Fourth, a parole-violation decisionmaking matrix should be used in order to ensure consistent responses to parole violations. Fifth, options for intermediate sanctions should be expanded in order to avoid the massive return of parolees to prison. Sixth, extralegal factors that influence revocation should be tracked. Seventh, substance abuse and mental health programs should be expanded. 22 notes

Date Published: June 1, 2009