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History of the Federal Parole System

NCJ Number
Peter B. Hoffman Ph.D.
Date Published
May 2003
87 pages
This paper presents a chronological history of the Federal parole system from its origin to the present (May 2003).
Prior to legislation that established the parole of Federal prisoners on June 25, 1910, incarceration could be shortened through the exercise of the presidential power to commute sentences and the reduction in the term of imprisonment by institutional officials for good conduct. On May 13, 1930, legislation created a single Board of Parole in Washington, DC, that consisted of three members serving full time by appointment of the Attorney General. Legislation of September 30, 1950, increased the Board to eight members appointed by the president with the advice and consent of the Senate for 6-year staggered terms. In October 1972 the Board began a pilot reorganization project that eventually included the establishment of five regions, creation of explicit guidelines for parole release decisions, provision of written reasons for parole decisions, and an administrative appeal process. In May 1976, the Parole Commission and Reorganization Act retitled the Board as the U.S. Parole Commission and made it an independent agency within the Department of Justice. Under the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984, the Parole Commission was scheduled for abolition on November 1, 1992, but the phase-out provision did not adequately provide for persons sentenced under the law in effect prior to November 1, 1987, who had not yet completed their sentences; to address this problem the Judicial Improvements Act of 1990 extended the Parole Commission's existence until November 1, 1997. For the same reason, the Commission was continued until November 1, 2002, under the Parole Commission Phaseout Act of 1996. The 21st Century Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act of 2002 again extended the life of the Commission until November 1, 2005. As of May 2003, the status of the Parole Commission beyond November 1, 2005, remained unresolved. This paper contains a list of the 63 persons who have served as members/commissioners of the Parole Board/Commission and a brief biographical sketch of each. The workload of the Board/Commission is depicted from 1931 to the present. A 120-item bibliography