Selected Papers of Homer Cummings, Attorney General of the United States, 1933-1939

By Carl Brent Swisher; Homer S. Cummings | Go to book overview

8. In and Out of Prison

From an address on a national study of "Release Procedures," at the annual dinner of the Section of Criminal Law of the American Bar Association, Boston, Massachusetts, August 25, 1936:

WITH the advantage of a federal perspective on the sordid panorama of crime, it was inevitable that our attention should become focused on the subject of parole. During recent years there has been an increasing public challenge as to the validity of that procedure both in theory and in the manner of its administration.

The importance of this subject suggested to me several months ago that the time was opportune for a nation-wide examination of parole, related as it is to the proper administration of criminal law throughout the country. Because of the variations existing among the statutes and practices of the several jurisdictions, I became convinced that such a survey should include not only parole but all forms of release procedures. Thus was initiated the studies now in progress, concerning which I have been asked to give a brief report tonight. * * *

Only a few tentative and preliminary studies in small areas have heretofore been made of the operation of parole, but the problem is nation-wide in character and a survey to be useful must be nation-wide in scope. This need is readily apparent when we consider that there is not even common understanding of the meaning of the word "parole." In one jurisdiction it means release by the governor or other executive agency, under circumstances which resemble so closely the granting of clemency or pardon as to be indistinguishable. In other jurisdictions the word is used to describe the release of prisoners by trial judges under conditions which approximate the procedure generally known as probation. In a third group of jurisdictions parole means release following an investigation of the record of the prisoner, based

-67-

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