Goals of this Guide and How to Use It
Decisionmaking tools are defined as standalone, structured and evidence-based methods which assist and inform parole decisionmaking. They may include such items as risk and needs assessment tools for a general offender population, or specialized assessment tools focused on sub-populations, such as sex offenders, justice-involved women, or on violent offenders. These assessments may include static or dynamic factors, and may be incorporated or referenced in a parole Board's decisionmaking guidelines.
Policies are defined as statements which articulate a parole Board's mission and goals, including its general approach to its responsibilities, clarifying procedures for hearings, victim input, materials considered in the parole process, and the like.
This Action Guide, Use of Evidence-Based Decisionmaking Tools, Policies and Guidelines, is designed to provide information and strategies to help parole Boards 1 improve and strengthen their abilities as decisionmakers and as policy making and leadership teams. It is one of a set of Action Guides developed (and under development) by the National Parole Resource Center (NPRC) to be used in concert with the Self-Assessment Toolkit for Paroling Authorities, which is an online guide that assists parole Boards in considering the full range of their practices. This Action Guide is intended to assist parole Board chairs, members, and staff to:
- Build upon the information and insights gained as a result of using the NPRC Self- Assessment Toolkit for Paroling Authorities;
- Consider their parole Board's overall vision/mission and the role that evidence-based tools and effective policies should play in accomplishing that vision/mission;
- Share information among parole Board members and develop a collaborative understanding of their current parole Board policies and decisionmaking tools, including guidelines—as well as an understanding of where there may be a lack of such decisionmaking tools, guidelines, or policies that should be addressed by the Board;
- Review and analyze the research evidence and "best practices" surrounding this particular practice target; and
- Consider what changes the Board would like to implement and how to best plan and implement the 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 history of decisionmaking tools and policy frameworks in the parole field.
- Tab 3: Dimensions That Typically Shape Parole Guidelines—Fair, Evenhanded Punishment AND Including Evidence-Based Practice is a brief overview of empirical research on effective correctional practices and how parole policy and decisionmaking tools can be supportive of community safety and reducing re-offense risks. It also addresses some of the challenges faced by paroling authorities as they work to implement evidence-based decisionmaking tools and policies.
- Tab 4: Moving Toward Implementing Policy and Practice Improvements details five steps, highlighted in a graphic "roadmap," for agreeing on and successfully implementing changes a Board may conclude they want to make in its decision tools and policy. The steps include a set of questions that, if answered accurately, will give Boards a picture of key aspects of their current tools and policies. This section also provides links to resources that provide specific examples of tools and policy frameworks that other Boards have elected to adopt. The section closes with a sample action plan format and tools to guide parole Boards through a process of revisiting/updating the goals they hope to accomplish in this area, and defining/implementing changes they conclude and agree must be made in policy and/or practice.
- Tab 5: Plan to Measure Performance offers considerations for defining and measuring progress toward success, and using measurement feedback to continue strengthening policy and practice going forward.
- Tab 6: References/Endnotes provides documentation of the literature and research upon which this Action Guide is based.
- Tab 7: Links lists helpful resources used by 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 linkages to those resources on the web.
1 The term "parole Boards" is intended to denote any formally appointed body with authority to release eligible individuals on parole, to deny parole to eligible offenders, to set conditions for individuals released on parole, and/or to respond to violations of parole conditions—setting appropriate sanctions, including re-incarceration, as a response. Although such entities are known by a variety of titles and generic terms—paroling authorities, Boards of probation and parole, etc., we will use "parole Board" in this Action Guide to denote such bodies, and "parole Board members" to denote the individuals who sit on those entities.
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.