Juvenile on Parole

Parole is an administrative act--a form of release granted to an inmate after he has served a portion of his sentence in a penal institution. When he is paroled he finishes serving his "time" outside prison or reformatory walls. Parole, in principle, is neither mercy nor leniency. Parole is an extension of punishment. It does not imply forgiveness and is not designed as a reward for good conduct in the institution. No inmate has the right to parole, and the public does not have the right to parole him.

Obviously, parole is less expensive than incarceration, since the parolee is able to earn some money and in many cases contribute to the support of his family, thus removing both himself and family from public support. One of the fallacies concerning parole is the view that the individual inmate achieves eligibility by his own efforts. Some judges will tell the convicted or his family that if he maintains a "good work record and good conduct record" while being in prison, he will be eligible for parole.

The fact of the matter is that most inmates become eligible for parole regardless of their records. At least 90 per cent of all prisoners make "good" records, but only approximately 30 per cent are paroled. (Kennedy, 2005) Parole And The Young Offender Oddly enough, the first elements of parole began in the United States in colonial times as a system of indenture for juvenile delinquents. Under this early practice, young prisoners were released and placed in the employment of private citizens to whom such prisoners were legally bound.

While these juveniles were not subject to supervision by the state, they were permitted to earn their final discharge from their employers. A further development occurred when state visiting agents were appointed to supervise the children and to prevent their exploitation by employers while on indenture. This system was adopted by the New York House of Refuge, founded in 1825. In the area of juvenile delinquency, the term "parole" applies to a procedure other than the supervision of an inmate after his release from jail, reformatory, prison, or some other institution.

Parole in this particular usage refers to the assignment of juvenile offenders to parents, relatives, or social agencies; and more rarely, in the case of adolescents, to boarding homes or, in rare instances, to hotels. (Altschuler and Armstrong, 2001) Juvenile parole, sometimes referred to as "after care," has for many years constituted a neglected field in the child welfare program. Little uniformity is to be found in its administration.

This unevenness reflects the great differences in the regulations governing state institutions and is also partly the result of the fact that many schools and institutions for juvenile delinquents are private or semiprivate, and only in a measure subject to state regulation and supervision. The growing policy governing adult parole, a policy leading toward greater centralization in the granting and supervising of parolees on the state level, has not been adopted in the juvenile field.

In view of the fact that one of the most important phases of the training program involved in institutional experience is the inmate's parole into the community and the facilitation of the offender's adjustment there, the need to improve parole procedures is evident. (Seiter And West 2003) Parole Systems And Problems The rapid growth of parole legislation necessitated a corresponding spread of parole systems to administer this new social technique.

By 1900, parole systems of a sort had been introduced into twenty states; by 1910, thirty-two states and the federal government had adopted parole systems; and by 1922, parole was in operation in forty-four states, the Territory of Hawaii, and the federal government. Today all states have parole laws of some type. In large part, because of this rapid development of the philosophy of parole among the forty-eight states, the various administrative parole systems present a somewhat kaleidoscopic view.

According to one specialist in this field, organizations and agencies granting parole within the various states are of three types: central board, governors, and institution boards. In twenty-nine jurisdictions, central boards are vested with the power to grant parole, or so-called paroles, to inmates of state prisons and reformatories. In seventeen states the sole power to grant parole is vested in the governor, acting independently or assisted by an advisor or an advisory board. Seven states utilize institutional parole agencies.

(Killinger, 1951) Where institutions serve a rather large territory and cannot let their staff members travel to outlying counties for purposes of investigation, the granting of parole and the supervision on parole may be in the hands of the committing juvenile court. State agencies, such as the Youth Authority in California, the Youth Service Commission in Wisconsin, the Youth Service Board in Massachusetts, and the Division of Juvenile Parole Services of the Illinois Department of Welfare, are charged with the preparation and the supervision of parole of those committed to institutions in these states.

(APPA Perspectives, 2004) The administration of parole is beset with many problems, the most important of which center in the supervisory process--the crux of the parole system. The problems are often complicated by inefficient administrative planning and inadequate staffing (some parole systems exist largely on paper). Again, many parole officers are burdened by very large case loads. And both officers and parolees are sometimes handicapped by detailed legal and administrative rules that restrict needed flexibility of operation.

Parole staffs are often of low quality because of unattractive salary scales. Competent men may not stay in parole service long for that reason. Nor are they always obtainable through Civil Service examinations. The latter, as one author stresses, do not always measure what they set out to measure; nor is it possible to determine from a written test whether an applicant has the temperament, the ability, and the personal integrity demanded in an efficient parole officer. Candidates may place high on the competitive lists and yet be very poor material, even emotionally unstable.

For example, in one Civil Service examination, an applicant passed the test with flying colors only to go to prison later for dishonesty; another, at the bottom of the list, barely managed to be appointed but became one of the most valuable members of the parole staff. (Dressler, 1951) There are, then, serious problems in on-going parole systems: problems of personnel selection and quality, of inadequate facilities and funds, of administrative policy and practice. But these problems are by no means insurmountable. Nor should they overshadow the positive accomplishments of parole itself.