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In the U.S., the parole system is designed to help incarcerated individuals re-acclimate to mainstream society. Low-risk offenders, who display good behavior while in prison, are eligible for parole. During a convict's parole, they are permitted to live on the outside, where they are under close supervision from a parole officer. During this time, the parolee can focus on getting secure housing, lining up a work program, and generally get their life back on track. However, their behavior is closely monitored with their assigned parole officer. They must avoid any trouble with the law whatsoever and consent to regular drug tests. Even a small infraction can send an individual back to prison.
The parole system also reduces costs associated with the over-crowded U.S. prison system. Does it work? In terms of preventing people from going back to prison, the system could improve. According to a 2005 study by the Urban Institute, over half of U.S. prisoners, who are released on parole, return to prison within two years. Experts, though, say former prisoners often face over-burdened parole officers and a lack of support networks on the outside.
What is Parole? (justice.gov)
"When someone is paroled, they serve part of their sentence under the supervision of their community. "
Does Parole Work? (urban.org)
"Overall, parole supervision has little effect on rearrest rates of released prisoners."
Study Finds Parole Has Little Effect on Rearrest Rates (webarchive.urban.org)
"Parole, a cornerstone of the criminal justice system, does little to dampen rearrest rates, concludes the first multistate study comparing the criminal activity of prisoners who are supervised after release with that of their unsupervised counterparts."
Prison and Parole (expertlaw.com)
"The most serious punishment for most crimes involves sentencing the defendant to prison, the 'state penitentiary.'"