Paroling Authority Self-Assessment Toolkit

Practice Target 2:

Develop and use clear, evidence-based, policy-driven decisionmaking tools, policies, and guidelines that reflect the full range of a paroling authority's concerns (e.g., punishment, victim issues, community safety, etc.).

Studies have shown that boards that have explicit release decisionmaking guidelines, and follow them in a majority of cases, are better able to accomplish their goals for offenders than those same boards prior to the use of guidelines2.  Research demonstrates that:

  • Swift responses to non-compliant behavior reduce the likelihood that the behavior will be repeated3
  • The certainty of a response to non-compliant behavior results in reductions in future deviance4.
  • It is not the severity of the response that is a determinant in whether the behavior will be repeated, but the certainty of the response5.

The principle of "consistency" suggests that similar decisions in similar circumstances will result in increased levels of compliance6.  The principle of "neutrality" suggests that processes that are impartial, logical and fair will result in increased adherence to rules7.  The principle of "proportionality" suggests that justice is served when the sanction is commensurate with the severity of the behavior8.  There is no question that a structured approach to guidelines assures more consistency, evenhandedness, and fundamental fairness than completely unstructured parole decisionmaking.  With increasingly high parole caseloads, and in turn, more decisionmakers, having a structure in place to guide the decisionmaking process is a useful strategy.

Using the assessment scale below, select a response to each question that (in your judgment) best reflects how fully your state and your board currently implement this aspect of the practice target under consideration. After clicking the “submit” button at the end of this section, you can view and print a summary of your responses that you can then use to guide a discussion with your fellow board members.


Does your board:

Have written (in statute, policy, or rules) guidance about what factors you are to consider in making parole release decisions?

No Progress
Toward Implementation
Some Significant Progress
Toward Implementation
Full Implementation Unknown
1 2 3 4 5

Have written guidance on whether and/or how you should or must use tools to assess those factors in your decisionmaking process? 

No Progress
Toward Implementation
Some Significant Progress
Toward Implementation
Full Implementation Unknown
1 2 3 4 5
Have structured decisionmaking policy (guidelines) that articulate the board's concerns and those factors that they consider in making release decisions?
No Progress
Toward Implementation
Some Significant Progress Toward Implementation Full Implementation Unknown
1 2 3 4 5

If so, does this policy include:

A statement that the parole decision is discretionary, and that the guidelines are meant to be merely advisory?
No Progress
Toward Implementation
Some Significant Progress
Toward Implementation
Full Implementation Unknown
1 2 3 4 5
A goal statement regarding the purpose of its release decisionmaking (for example, to identify those individuals who, through a period of incarceration, have  been held accountable and who can be managed safely in the community)?
No Progress
Toward Implementation
Some Significant Progress
Toward Implementation
Full Implementation Unknown
1 2 3 4 5
Key values in the statement to communicate to staff and others the principles upon which the policy is based (for example, public safety, fundamental fairness, and proportionality, etc.)?
No Progress
Toward Implementation
Some Significant Progress
Toward Implementation
Full Implementation Unknown
1 2 3 4 5
Does your policy specify that empirically-based, actuarial risk and needs assessment, and how it will be factored into a decision?
No Progress
Toward Implementation
Some Significant Progress
Toward Implementation
Full Implementation Unknown
1 2 3 4 5
The offense of conviction in a way that defines, by policy, the limits of appropriate punishment/accountability?
No Progress
Toward Implementation
Some Significant Progress
Toward Implementation
Full Implementation Unknown
1 2 3 4 5
A method (e.g., a decision making grid or "matrix", or a decision tree) that provides the ability to weight the relative differences in offenders in terms of their level of risk and the severity of their offense of conviction, resulting in a "guideline range" or whether a particular case is "likely" or "unlikely" to be paroled?
No Progress
Toward Implementation
Some Significant Progress
Toward Implementation
Full Implementation Unknown
1 2 3 4 5
An allowance for the decisionmaker to consider unique conditions in a case that may suggest that the appropriate response is more intensive or less intensive than the "guideline" might indicate?
No Progress
Toward Implementation
Some Significant Progress
Toward Implementation
Full Implementation Unknown
1 2 3 4 5
The possibility (using these tools) for an offender or a member of the public to review the facts of a specific case and determine whether, in a typical situation, such a case would be likely to be paroled, or likely to be denied?
No Progress
Toward Implementation
Some Significant Progress
Toward Implementation
Full Implementation Unknown
1 2 3 4 5
In your judgment, how would you characterize your board’s progress in this area, considering the expectations/characteristics outlined above, and the previous discussion?
In your judgment, how would you rate the IMPORTANCE of bringing this practice target to full implementation in order for you to accomplish your goals as a paroling authority? Why?

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