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According to the Los Angeles Times, a little known California law has caused an astounding increase in the number of paroles who were taken off supervision. About 8,500 parolees were taken off supervision in April , more than six times the 1,300 discharged in March.

Under the new law, parolees who were last imprisoned for a nonviolent and nonsexual offense could be discharged in as little as six months. The main purpose of this law is to reduce California’s prison overpopulation issue and to save the state money.  But could the reduction in reentry services to low-risk parolees do more harm than good in California’s prison realignment effort?

Research demonstrates that public safety is enhanced when less violent offenders complete evidence-based programs that address their criminal behaviors. But in California, these parolees are getting fewer of these services, which are needed to help them successfully transition back into society.

The first-ever state-by-state survey of recidivism rates by the Pew Center on the States, State of Recidivism, The Revolving Door of America’s Prisons, tracked offenders released in 1999 and 2004 for three years after their release. Nationwide, nearly 43 percent of prisoners released in 2004, and 45 percent of those released in 1999, were re-incarcerated within three years, either for a new crime or for violating the terms of their supervised release, according to the study.

The State of California was one of six states that reported that more than half of released offenders returned to state custody within three years between 2004 and 2007.  The study showed a reduction of 21.9% in recidivism rates when intensive supervision is included with cognitive treatment.

What I found interesting about this study was that intensive supervision without treatment had no effect on recidivism rates.  So the question can be asked again, could the reduction in reentry services to low risk parolees do more harm than good? Will this law cost the taxpayers of California more money in the long run?  The evidence-based research says it will, but only time will tell.

John Hennessey

John Hennessey

John Hennessey is vice president/general manager, Eastern Region for Alcohol Monitoring Systems. He has 17 years of experience working within the criminal justice system, specializing in working closely with county, state, and federal agencies to identify their needs and deliver technology, treatment and reentry solutions to help meet those needs. Hennessey has extensive experience in marketing and promoting advanced technologies and supervision, and evidence-based solutions for accounts around the world. Hennessey joined SCRAM Systems in 2008 as a sales director for National Accounts. Prior to assuming his current role, he served as vice president of Strategic Accounts.

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