The United States of America currently holds well over 2.2 million inmates are putting us right at the top of the countries with the highest incarceration rates. Among those inmates is a good number that is held due to neither the judge nor the jury’s verdict, but solely owing to the parole board’s inaction. These parole board’s discretion and range of powers are virtually unlimited and their decisions unquestionable.
Granting parole to the inmates who are perceived as being rehabilitated would be one of the alternatives to mass imprisonment. Parole boards’ decisions are complicated by the balance they have to maintain between the recommendations from the statistical analysis tools and the political dimensions. The pillorying and political affiliations of most parole members make them more cautious about their decisions backfiring on them and less keen on the recommendations of the analytic tools.
A case in point is the well-publicized predicament of Reynaldo Rodriguez, a first-time offender who pleaded guilty to second-degree murder at 19 years of age. He did this as a life sentence qualified for him for parole in 10 years’ time. 37 years and 5 parole applications later he is still in prison. His applications have been rejected despite having brilliant reports from his work supervisors, a letter of support from his sentencing judge and a positive prognosis on parole from the prison psychiatrist.
A study conducted by Stanford University on murder convicts found a recurrent conviction rate of 0.00581% for felonies and 0% for murder. Further, the recidivism rate drops as people grow older. The cost of holding an inmate doubles at 55 years of age. Once a convict is granted parole, the state gets the right to keep track of their activities while on probation, reducing their risks of committing crimes again. However, if their sentences are allowed to run out the state has no such right, and it is easier for them to go back to crime.
It would seem easier when that parole is granted at the earliest possible time when the risk is manageable for everyone in the system.