By the Numbers: Parole Release and Revocation Across 50 States
Date:  06-12-2016

Extensive data offers state-by-state comparison of prisons and parole populations
By the Numbers: Parole Release and Revocation Across 50 States

By Mariel E. Alper

This report was published by the Robina Institute of Criminal Law and Criminal Justice

April 27, 2016

Parole decision-making functions as a crucial mechanism channeling people in and out of prison. This report combines multiple data sources and, for the first time, provides an overview of the movements between prison and parole for each state, focusing on the decision points of parole release and parole revocation. This information allows for a comprehensive picture of each state, both as a snapshot and longitudinally. For each state, information is presented on prison and parole rates over time, the percentage of prison admissions that are due to people on conditional release, the percentage of hearings by the parole board that result in parole being granted, the rate of re-incarceration for parolees, and the percentage of parolees who exit parole due to an incarceration versus a successful completion of supervision.

These five topics show a wide diversity of trends over the fifty states. This is due largely to the varying contexts in which parole operates across the states. For example, states vary in the extent to which discretionary decision-making is authorized; eligibility requirements for parole release and revocation; attitudes, cultures, and norms of parole boards; and the risk level of their prison and parole populations. In addition, only about half of the states make information on parole grant rates publicly available.

Of the states that do not make this information available, only a few do not (or very rarely) use discretionary parole release. The amount of information available on grant rates varies by state, with few states offering comparable data over time and most states offering data only on hearings that actually take place. In contrast, due to national data collections by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, more comprehensive information is available on prison and parole populations, the number of conditional releases, and re-incarcerations. Certain patterns—or lack of patterns—are evident throughout the briefs, providing some answers but also raising a range of questions.

The Robina Institute’s Parole Release and Revocation Project researches the components and framework of parole release and revocation decision-making across the United States. This initiative is committed to engaging paroling authorities in both indeterminate and determinate sentencing states in examining all elements of the discretionary parole release and post-release violations process. An important goal of the research is to contribute to the enhancement of decision-making at every stage. Work is currently underway to develop comprehensive profiles of each state focusing on the legal framework of parole release and revocation. Additionally, a comprehensive, national survey of paroling authorities has been completed. An in-depth report on this timely survey is in the process of being finalized.

Download "By the Numbers: Parole Release and Revocation Across 50 States" here.