Goals of this Guide and How to Use It
NPRC's "Practice Targets" advise paroling authorities to: "Use their influence and leverage to target institutional and community resources to mid and high risk offenders to address their criminogenic needs" and "Consider for release, at the earliest stage possible – in light of statutes and other sentencing interests – offenders assessed as low risk."
Ten Practice Targets
for Paroling Authorities
1. Use good, empirically-based actuarial tools to assess risk and criminogenic needs of offenders.
2. Develop and use clear, evidence-based, policy-driven decision-making tools, policies, and guidelines that reflect the full range of a paroling authority's concerns (e.g., punishment, victim issues, community safety, etc.).
3. Maintain meaningful partnerships with institutional corrections and community supervision (and others) to encourage a seamless transition process and the availability of sound, evidence-based programs.
4. Use their influence and leverage to target institutional and community resources to mid and high risk offenders to address their criminogenic needs.
5. Consider for release at the earliest stage possible -- in light of statutes and other sentencing interests -- offenders assessed as low risk.
6. Use the parole interview/hearing/ review process as an opportunity to -- among other goals -- enhance offender motivation to change.
7. Fashion condition setting policy to minimize requirements on low risk offenders, and target conditions to criminogenic needs of medium and high risk offenders.
8. Develop policy-driven, evidence-informed responses to parole violations that incorporate considerations of risk, criminogenic need and severity, assure even-handed treatment of violators, and utilize resources wisely.
9. Develop and strengthen case-level decision making skills/capacities in these areas.
10. Develop and strengthen agency level policy making, strategic management and performance measurement skills/capacities.
This Action Guide, Management of Low Risk Offenders, is designed to help parole Boards improve and strengthen their practice by considering, in particular, how empirically valid information on offender risk can help shape their decision-making practices—both with regard to setting expectations around program participation and with regard to the timing of release, with a particular emphasis on offenders assessed as low risk to reoffend. Among these offenders—especially the subset of these for whom other non-risk considerations such as extreme severity of the crime or victim impact—are not present, this action guide will present the research basis for ensuring that those low risk offenders not be required to complete scarce risk reduction programs as a result of parole Board expectations AND that they are considered for release from incarceration at the earliest possible time. It is one in a series of Action Guides developed by the National Parole Resource Center (NPRC) and builds upon the NPRC's Self-Assessment Toolkit for Paroling Authorities, an online guide that identifies ten practice targets paroling authorities should consider implementing to assist them in achieving their public safety and risk reduction goals.
The goals of this Guide are to:
- Identify the issues related to low risk offenders and their management leading up to release and the timing and conditions of their release from incarceration on parole.
- Provide evidence about risk, program participation, release decision-making, offender behavior and public safety.
- Provide guidance and resources to assist parole Boards in developing policies and practices concerning the management and release of low risk offenders.
Each Action Guide addresses a different practice target and provides parole Board members the opportunity to consider each of the targets—explained in the Toolkit—in more depth. See side bar on this page for the list of the Ten Practices Targets for Paroling Authorities. This Action Guide is particularly strongly related, and should be considered in combination with, the Action Guide on Practice Target #4—"Use their influence and leverage to target institutional and community resource to mid and high risk offenders to address their criminogenic needs. (Link)
It is strongly recommended that parole Boards use the Toolkit as a first step before using this Action Guide – or any of the Guides in the series. The Toolkit reviews all of the practice targets, their basis in the research, and engages the user – through a series of questions – in a process of considering broadly how they see their current practices in each area. The Action Guides then support a Board in moving toward significant practice improvements in each area.
This Action Guide on Management and Release of Low Risk Offenders is intended to assist parole Board chairs, members, and staff to:
- Use the information and insights gained as a result of using the NPRC Self- Assessment Toolkit for Paroling Authorities;
- Consider how use of validated risk assessment tools can be part of a strategy for limiting the use of scarce institutional and community resources on low-risk offenders, and releasing low risk offenders at the earliest possible time while enhancing public safety and the effective and efficient use of resources;
- Develop a common understanding of the Board's current policies and practices on management and release of low risk offenders;
- Review and analyze the evidence and "best practices" on management and release of low risk offenders, and identify the gaps and challenges they want to address; and
- Consider what changes the Board would like to make and how to best plan and implement those changes.
This guide is presented in sections to facilitate its use:
- Tab 1: Goals of this Guide and How to Use It.
- Tab 2: Background and Context provides an introduction and sets the context regarding the use of actuarial risk assessment instruments in parole release decision-making.
- Tab 3: Understanding the Evidence and Its Implications provides a brief overview of the empirical research on assessment to predict likelihood of recidivism and the implications for the use of such information with low risk offenders.
- Tab 4: Moving Toward Implementing Practice Improvements and Performance Measurement details seven steps, highlighted in a graphic "roadmap," which Boards can take to develop and implement change strategies to improve current policies and practices regarding the use of assessment information. The steps include a set of questions that, if answered accurately, will provide a snapshot of key aspects of these practices. This section also provides examples of policies regarding low risk offenders that other Boards have elected to adopt. The section includes a sample action plan format and tools to guide parole Boards through a process of revisiting/updating the goals they hope to accomplish, and defining/implementing changes they conclude and agree must be made in policy and/or practice, and closes with a plan to measure performance and offers considerations for defining and measuring progress toward success, and using measurement feedback to continue strengthening practice going forward.
- Tab 5: References provide documentation of the literature and research upon which this Action Guide is based.
- Tab 6: Links lists helpful resources used by the NPRC in assembling this Action Guide and which are recommended for those wanting to supplement their knowledge on this topic. The listings in this tab provide direct links to web-based resources.
This project was supported by Grant No. 2010-DJ-BX-K140 awarded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance. The Bureau of Justice Assistance is a component of the Office of Justice Programs, which also includes the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the Office for Victims of Crime, and the SMART Office. Points of view or opinions in this document are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.