In Their Own Words: Parolees Identify What Works and What Doesn't

Valerie J. Callanan, California State University - San Marcos
Sheldon Zhang, San Diego State University
Donna-Marie Cruicshank, California State University - San Marcos
Julie Peggar, University of California, Los Angeles
Robert Roberts, California State University - San Marcos

ABSTRACT
As the number of parolees has grown in recent years, so has a renewed interest in parolees among criminologists. California has approximately 120,000 parolees; more than one-half will return to prison within the first two years of their release. Current literature documents a parole system strained by increased caseloads with a corresponding decrease in resources, and few programs are initiated with the actual needs of parolees in mind. Although the demographic profile of parolees has not changed much over the past twenty years they are less likely to have received pre-release preparation while in prison, more likely to need drug treatment, and more likely to have mental health problems. Due to mandatory sentencing policies, such as the Three-Strikes Law, they are also more likely to have spent more time incarcerated thus less likely to have family and other social support networks available to them upon release. Very little research has interviewed parolees about their needs. Drawing from 150 unstructured in-depth interviews with parolees in California, we have found parolee needs vary by length of their time in prison, criminal history, educational attainment, employment history, and connection to family. We will also discuss the disjuncture between available services and parolee needs.

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Updated 05/20/2006