Robina Institute Launches Probation and Parole Initiatives

This guest post comes from Mariel Alper of the Robina Institute.

There are two ongoing projects being conducted by the Robina Institute at the University of Minnesota Law School which closely parallel the work being done by the Offender Supervision in Europe COST Action. Focusing on states in the U.S. rather than countries in Europe, these projects seek to improve our understanding of probation and parole, as well as to inform the direction of correctional and sentencing reform movements in America.

The Parole Release and Revocation Project examines the discretionary prison release and post-release violation processes. The decisions of parole boards to release prisoners and to revoke parole are important determinants of the prison population. Such decisions often define the severity of punishment and effect the rehabilitative and crime-control purposes of the criminal law. This project has three parts. The first part consists of publishing legal profiles of the relevant statutes governing parole in each state. The second part consists of conducting and issuing a comprehensive report drawing on a national survey of paroling authorities which examines their structure and powers, the current issues facing parole boards, and statistical information. The third part will involve three or more states joining as active participants in designing and implementing reform proposals to enhance release and revocation policy and practice in their systems. This project is guided by an advisory council consisting of representatives from the academic, criminal justice, and public policy community, as well as national and professional associations.

The Probation Revocation Project aims to provide information and assistance to state and country jurisdictions that see the need to rethink their sentence revocation practices. Revocation practice is a critical segment of the current and growing national discourse on incarceration policy, including the most appropriate role prisons and jails should play. This project focuses on the revocation decision itself, as well as earlier stages of the process that determine the volume of cases that reach the juncture of potential revocation. Topics to be considered will include the standards governing eligibility for probation, alternatives to probation such as diversion programs, the range of probation conditions available to the sentencing judge and supervising authorities, the typical load imposed upon probationers, policies within probation offices for responding to violations, the processes available to adjudicate violations, the range of sanctions available, and any rules or guidelines that govern the sanctioning of violations. The project will help probation agencies consider the different models commonly found in other jurisdictions, while explicating the perceived advantages and disadvantages of various approaches. This project also consists of three parts. The first part consists of publishing legal profiles of the relevant statues guiding probation revocation in a sample of states. The second part consists of producing profiles of the actual practices, successes, and challenges of up to six study sites. The third part entails working closely with four to six sites to generate specific and workable options to improve their systems, along with an offer of assistance in adoption, implementation and evaluation. This project is guided by a Project Advisory Board comprised of scholars, researchers with expertise in community corrections, probation executives (including individuals from the study sites), judges, legislators, prosecutors, and defense counsel members.

After meeting at the European Society of Criminology meetings, I believe there is much that the two groups can learn from each other. There are two upcoming events which may interest you. The first is a panel by the Robina Institute at the American Society of Criminology conference: Under-Examined Dimensions of Reentry, Release, and Revocation. It is scheduled for Friday, November 21st. The second event is a conference which will be held at the University of Minnesota Law School on May 1st. The theme of this conference is Divergent Worlds, Converging Worlds: Offenders’ Lives in the Community. There should be more information available on our website in the coming months. For more information, see: Robina Institute

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