The California parole system is designed to rehabilitate people as they leave prison and help them start peaceful, productive lives. But nearly 7 in 10 people on parole are rearrested within two years of their release from prison – most for new crimes and others for technical violations. It’s time to transform parole into an institution that more effectively rehabilitates people, keeps our communities safe, and avoids costly reincarceration episodes.
There are roughly 51,000 people on parole in California. We spend hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars a year on parole rehabilitation programs, with little to no effect. Many parolees struggle with substance abuse and homelessness, and only 1 in 5 Californians on parole finds a job in their first year out.
California parole can help formerly incarcerated people get back on their feet and avoid relapsing into crime, but we need to shift the culture inside our parole departments. To do so, we should take the best lessons from a landmark reform of California probation, and apply them to parole.
In 2009, California passed a law called SB 678 which began rewarding county probation departments with shared savings if they successfully reduced the number of felon probationers they returned to prison.
An SB 678-style incentive framework for California parole will avert over 10,000 people from being reincarcerated over the next decade and save the state tens or hundreds of millions of dollars.