Parole and Truth-in-Sentencing
Jesse W. Ratliff Jr.
June 10, 2012
Parole and Truth-in-Sentencing
In the United States criminal justice system offenders convicted of serious crimes often receive imprisonment as the sentence for punishment. After serving a length of time in prison these inmates may find themselves eligible for parole. Parole is a correctional strategy with conditions and limits. Truth in sentencing is a concept which help regulates the inmate to parolee transition.
According to Frank Schmalleger (2011), parole is the early release of an inmate from prison whereas the inmate becomes a parolee and agrees to conditions and regulations for his or her reentry into public society. Schmalleger goes on to explain that inmates may be paroled by one of two models: 1) discretionary parole which relies on a parole board to evaluate the inmate’s history, actions while incarcerated, and predicted capabilities to reenter society without returning to a life of crime; 2) Mandatory parole which prescribes automatic parole after a predetermined length of incarceration has been reached and provided certain criteria such as good behavior has been met (2011).
In order for a parolee to remain released from prison, conditions of the parole must be met and maintained regularly. Customary conditions include regular visits with the parole officer, who is charged with the supervision of the parolee. The parole officer is normally granted the right to spontaneous visits to the parolee’s home or place of work. Another typical condition of parole is the parolee must acquire and maintain gainful employment (Schmalleger, 2011). This requirement assures the system that the parolee is serious about reentering society in a respectful, crime-free manner. Having a job also allows the parolee to begin earning money to pay fines and or court costs, supervisory fees, child support, or other obligations to maintain the supervised freedom of being on parole. Depending on the crime committed, the parolee may also be required to attend support meetings or classes as part of the parole. These community-based treatments are all in place with the goal of rehabilitating the criminal in the hope of the end product being a socially acceptable, self-sustaining citizen of the community who never turns to crime in the future.
Truth in sentencing is the laws pertaining to the length of time an offender serves imprisoned in relation to the actual length of the sentence. In respect to an inmate becoming a parolee, the truth-in-sentencing laws are there to provide limits on how early is too early for the release of the offender. If an inmate was convicted of murder, these laws are used to make sure the offender is not paroled after two years of time served. Another goal of the truth-in-sentencing concept is to guarantee repeat offenders do not keep revolving in and out of the parole system. States such as Texas have a three strikes rule in place (Schmalleger, 2011). If a person is convicted of a third felony in his or her life, that person will receive full sentence without the possibility of parole. These goals are to protect the community and eliminate wasted efforts on rehabilitation and reentry to society.
Parole and truth-in-sentencing laws are in place to help both the inmate/parolee and the prison system. If an inmate can become a parolee and prove that s/he can meet the conditions of parole and become an asset to society rather than be a criminal liability, the system allows for the second and sometimes even third chance at living life in a respectable manner. However, a parolee who chooses not to satisfy the demands of the parole will find the iron bars closing once again.
Schmalleger, F. (2011). Criminal Justice Today (11th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.