Prisoners who Serve Full Sentences and are Released without Supervision are more Likely to Return to Crime

Friday, June 06, 2014

States have increasingly kept prisoners locked up for their entire sentences over the past two decades, resulting in a larger number of ex-cons returning to their communities without parole or any kind of supervision or assistance. This group of former inmates, though, is more prone to getting into trouble and winding up back behind bars, compared to prisoners who receive parole and help outside of prison, according to a new study (pdf).


Known as “max-outs,” inmates who spend the maximum amount of time served under their sentences grew dramatically in number from 1990 to 2012, increasing from fewer than 50,000 to more than 100,000, The Pew Charitable Trusts found.


The growth in the max-out rate resulted in these prisoners accounting for more than 20% of all releases nationwide by 2012. The increase has been being fueled primarily by non-violent offenders, such as those who had been sentenced for drug and property crimes.


The study also found that the increase in max-outs has largely been due to policy choices made by some states during the past three decades. They include the elimination of parole and new limits on prison release eligibility.


In some states (Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Utah), more than 40% of all inmates maxed out their prison time.


This has meant a much larger population of ex-cons returning to society without anyone in the correctional system providing them with help or oversight so they don’t return to a life of crime.


The Pew Charitable Trusts says states would be better off freeing more prisoners before maxing out and putting them into the parole system. This strategy would save money and reduce recidivism, the report says.


“In New Jersey, for example, inmates released to parole supervision before their sentences expired were 36 percent less likely to return to prison—even when controlling for risk factors such as an offender’s prior record that reliably predict recidivism—than inmates who maxed out,” according to the report.


Using New Jersey correctional statistics from 2008, the study said parolees had a rearrested rate of 51%, while max-outs were at 65%. Similarly, reconviction rates for parolees were also lower (38% vs. 55%), as was the rate for committing new crimes (25% vs. 41%) within three years of release.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Max Out: The Rise in Prison Inmates Released Without Supervision (Pew Charitable Trusts) (pdf)

Two-Thirds of Criminals Released from Prison are Rearrested within 3 Years (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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