Results of GAO's Review of the Parole Decisionmaking Process

Gao ID: 116559 October 1, 1981

GAO presented some preliminary findings regarding its review of the Federal parole decisionmaking process. GAO stated that there were inconsistencies in parole decisions within and among the U.S. Parole Commission because guidelines used by its examiners to make parole recommendations were subject to varying interpretations, and hearing examiners had not received adequate training in their use. Also, GAO found that erroneous parole decisions had been made and that quality control activities were not effective in detecting these errors. Finally, offenders were not being notified of parole decisions in a timely manner. In the cases which GAO reviewed for timeliness, the Commission failed to meet the statutory notification requirements about 81 percent of the time. GAO believes that major improvements can be made to the procedures followed by the Commission when making parole decisions. The Commission needs to: (1) clarify its parole guidelines and train hearing examiners in their use; (2) ensure that hearing examiners have sufficient time to properly analyze case material well in advance of parole hearings and require full participation of both hearing examiners present at a hearing; (3) establish an effective quality control system; and (4) clarify the role of the National Appeals Board. GAO believes that additional legislation is needed to improve the organizational structure and operational efficiency of the Commission. Specifically, the Commission needs to seek legislative changes to facilitate the formulation of national parole policy and eliminate requirements for certain activities that require expenditure of valuable resources, but are not productive. GAO also found that the Parole Commission was making many parole release decisions without receiving all of the information it needed from other components of the criminal justice system. GAO stressed the importance of using all available information before making any parole determinations. Finally, GAO found that major changes need to be made to the procedures followed by the Commission and the Federal Probation Division when supervising parolees in the community. The two agencies need to work together to develop specific criteria for determining what constitutes a parole violation, improve procedures for reporting parole violations, clarify procedures to be followed when terminating parole supervision, and develop new supervision procedures for certain groups of parolees.

The Justia Government Accountability Office site republishes public reports retrieved from the U.S. GAO These reports should not be considered official, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Justia.