By Evans, Donald G.
Corrections Today , Vol. 64, No. 1
Questions concerning the value and necessity of parole and other forms of conditional release were discussed at a meeting of 200 international corrections professionals representing 35 countries. This was the third annual conference of the International Corrections and Prisons Association (ICPA) -- a new affiliate of the American Correctional Association -- held in Perth, Australia, Oct. 28 to Nov. 2, 2001. "Partnerships: Expanding Our Networks and Horizons" was the conference theme.
Most of the presentations centered on prison programming and a limited amount of time was devoted to community corrections, probation and parole issues. However, in the session dedicated to community corrections, probation and parole, chaired by Renee Collette, president of the Association of Paroling Authorities International, the need for a more focused emphasis on community corrections was discussed.
The group devoted the remaining time to discussing parole and its value and necessity in providing a full range of correctional options. Most of the countries represented had some form of parole, such as use of parole boards and statutory release mechanisms, all involving some community supervision. Since an objective of the conference was to enhance the field of corrections' potential to contribute to increased public safety and healthier communities, the group saw an opportunity to discuss what it perceived as barriers to the effectiveness of parole, as well as some possible solutions. Given that in most jurisdictions, the majority of incarcerated offenders are eventually released into the community, it seemed prudent to explore issues involving offenders' reintegration.
The group members discussed what they collectively viewed as obstacles to the safe return of offenders to their communities. The first and foremost issue that emerged was the lack of positive relationships between and among the various sectors of the criminal justice system. The need for better information-sharing and a clearer understanding of roles and responsibilities of each part of the criminal justice system were seen as crucial to improving re-entry strategies. In some jurisdictions, the lack of a good tracking system was seen as contributing to poor supervision outcomes, i.e., some agencies do not know where some of the offenders who have failed to report are, and others have failed to keep accurate records of offenders' whereabouts. Also, there is a lack of effective programming for offenders under supervision and as a result, violation rates are much higher and successful completion rates have been dismal.
Another issue raised was the lack of adequate and appropriate support for offenders leaving prison. The problem of the community's ability to absorb the projected large volume (particularly in the United States) of offenders being released from prison during the next few years concerned delegates. As a result, some believed the community was not prepared to receive parolees, thus aggravating rather than mitigating the reintegration goals of parole. …