The Future of Parole

Melinda D. Schlager, Rutgers University

Public pressure on legislators and criminal justice professionals to control crime has required that crime be analyzed in novel, dynamic ways such as an interdisciplinary approach. Disciplines like history have helped reshape discussions in crime and criminal justice, especially those related to parole. Because historical analysis is grounded in archival research, it is necessary to carefully consider the risks and benefits of using such information to make claims and draw conclusions. There are benefits and limitations to utilizing historical documents. While they offer insight into situations not previously understood, they also require that you are cognizant of inconsistencies in the data that may be a function of shifts in philosophical thought or social and economic influences. As legislators and policymakers consider the future of parole, they must do so in light of what these programs were originally meant to do, what we expect them to do, whether these expectations are realistic, and whether these programs are somehow limited by their purpose. Keeping historical context in mind as we design parole policy will not only help minimize these economic and politically costly mistakes, but allow us to design better and more efficacious programs.

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Updated 05/20/2006