Federal Parole Practices:

Better Management and Legislative Changes Are Needed

GGD-82-1: Published: Jul 16, 1982. Publicly Released: Jul 16, 1982.

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GAO reviewed the operations of the U.S. Parole Commission, an independent agency with parole jurisdiction over all eligible federal prisoners and paroled offenders.

Although some progress has been made in the parole decisionmaking process since 1976 when legislation establishing the Parole Commission was passed, major improvements are still needed. GAO found that the guidelines used by hearing examiners are not clear enough and that the Commission has no program for training the examiners in their use. The lack of clarity in the guidelines was a factor in numerous inaccurate parole decisions. GAO believes that, although the Commission can take some action on its own to improve its operations, other improvements require legislative action. For example, there is a need to eliminate several legislative requirements for certain activities that are not productive, such as the regional appeals process and interim hearings on the parole status of offenders. In formulating parole decisions, the Commission is very dependent upon information provided by others, including U.S. Attorneys, judges, probation officers, and prison staff. The completeness and accuracy of this information is critical if the Commission is to make equitable parole decisions; however, the Commission often does not get sufficient information to properly apply its parole release guidelines. GAO found that major changes need to be made to the procedures followed in supervising paroled offenders.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Chairman of the U.S. Parole Commission should ensure that superior program achievement determination decisions are documented and work with the Bureau to resolve the question of whether two reward systems are necessary.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice: United States Parole Commission

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Chairman of the U.S. Parole Commission should work with the Judicial Conference in developing proposed amendments to Rules 11(c) and 32(c)(3) to: (1) ensure that defendents are made aware of the information that will be considered by the Parole Commission; and (2) improve disclosure of the presentence reports to offenders prior to sentencing so that offenders will have adequate opportunity to correct any inaccuracies contained in them.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice: United States Parole Commission

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Because P.L. 98-473 eliminates the Parole Commission, this recommendation is no longer valid.

    Recommendation: The Chairman of the U.S. Parole Commission should seek legislation to relieve the Parole Commission of the responsibility for making parole decisions on District of Columbia Code violators incarcerated in Federal institutions.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice: United States Parole Commission

  4. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Because P.L. 98-473 eliminates the Parole Commission and eliminates the Federal Youth Corrections Act, this recommendation is no longer valid.

    Recommendation: The Chairman of the U.S. Parole Commission should seek legislation to: (1) clarify the role of the National Appeals Board so that there will be an understanding among all the commissioners as to how it will carry out its responsibility; (2) eliminate the requirements for the regional appeals process, statutory interim hearings every 18 or 24 months, and parole consideration and parole supervision for youthful offenders sentenced under the Magistrates Act; and (3) terminate the Commission's involvement in study and observation cases committed under the Federal Youth Corrections Act.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice: United States Parole Commission

  5. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: P.L. 98-473 abolished the Parole Commission.

    Recommendation: The Chairman of the U.S. Parole Commission should reevaluate the propriety of using juvenile records to calculate salient factor scores since these records are not available in many places across the country.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice: United States Parole Commission

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Chairman of the U.S. Parole Commission should seek the assistance of the Attorney General, the Director of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts, and the Judicial Conference to improve the flow of information between the Parole Commission and prosecutors, probation officers, judges and correctional staff.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice: United States Parole Commission

  7. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Because P.L. 98-473 eliminates the Parole Commission, this recommendation is no longer valid.

    Recommendation: The Chairman of the U.S. Parole Commission should propose legislative changes that will facilitate the formulation of national parole policy.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice: United States Parole Commission

  8. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should require the U.S. Attorneys to provide the Parole Commission Form 792's.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  9. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Because P.L. 98-473 provides for the elimination of the Parole Commission, this recommendation is no longer valid.

    Recommendation: The Chairman of the U.S. Parole Commission should develop an effective quality control system in the regions and at headquarters. The system should provide for review of case file material to ensure that pertinent information is considered and that panel recommendations are made in accordance with Parole Commission procedures.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice: United States Parole Commission

  10. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Chairman of the U.S. Parole Commission should work with the Bureau of Prisons to develop criteria for determining what constitutes superior program achievement by offenders and the conditions necessary for advancing parole dates.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice: United States Parole Commission

  11. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Chairman of the U.S. Parole Commission should establish a system to ensure that parole decisions are made within the time frames required by the Parole Commission and Reorganization Act of 1976.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice: United States Parole Commission

  12. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: With the passage of P.L. 98-473, which eliminates the Parole Commission, this recommendation is no longer valid.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should resolve the U.S. Parole Commission's longstanding problem of obtaining adequate presentence and postsentence reports from judicial districts which refuse to provide them.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  13. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: With the passage of P.L. 98-473, which eliminates the Parole Commission, this recommendation is no longer valid.

    Recommendation: The Judicial Conference should resolve the U.S. Parole Commission's longstanding problem of obtaining adequate presentence and postsentence reports from judicial districts which refuse to provide them.

    Agency Affected: Judicial Conference of the United States

  14. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: With the passage of P.L. 98-473, which eliminates the Parole Commission, this recommendation is no longer valid.

    Recommendation: The Director, Administrative Office of the United States Courts, should require the Chief of the Probation Division to work with the Chairman of the U.S. Parole Commission to: (1) develop clear definitions of requirements for special conditions of parole and specific criteria for determining what constitutes a violation of a special condition; (2) establish specific time frames for reporting parole violations and develop specific guidelines for probation officers to use in requesting warrants for the arrest of parole violators; (3) clarify procedures to be followed to terminate parole supervision and establish a system to ensure that annual reviews for establishing the continued need for supervision are made; (4) resolve the controversy over whether probation officers need search and seizure authority to supervise parolees; and (5) finalize a procedure for furnishing salient factor scores to probation officers.

    Agency Affected: Administrative Office of the United States Courts

  15. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: With the passage of P.L. 98-473, which eliminates the Parole Commission, this recommendation is no longer valid.

    Recommendation: The Chairman of the U.S. Parole Commission should: (1) seek the assistance of the Attorney General and the Judicial Conference in obtaining presentence and postsentence reports from those judicial districts that are refusing to provide them; (2) reach agreement with the Director of the Bureau of Prisons on the types of offender misconduct which should automatically be referred to the Institution Discipline Committee so that the Commission can uniformly consider misconduct when making parole decisions; (3) obtain judgment and commitment orders, indictments, and records of sentencing hearings for use in formulating parole decisions; (4) develop a strategy to improve parole decisionmaking for co-defendents; (5) work with the Director of the Bureau of Prisons to monitor the success of actions being taken to identify offenders not eligible for parole consideration; and (6) implement a system to make prosecutors aware of parole decisions.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice: United States Parole Commission

  16. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Chairman of the U.S. Parole Commission should improve the quality of case analysis by hearing examiners by: (1) allotting sufficient time to properly analyze the material in offenders' files well in advance of parole hearings; (2) requiring that both examiners assigned to a hearing fully analyze the information in offenders' files and participate in the hearing; (3) refining the pre-hearing process being implemented in the regions; and (4) changing the Commissions procedures and seeking amendments to 18 U.S.C. 4208 so that sufficient time will be available for hearing examiners to obtain missing information or obtain clarification of information prior to parole hearing.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice: United States Parole Commission

  17. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should require the Director of the Bureau of Prisons to: (1) provide releasable study and observation reports and psychological evaluations to the U.S. Parole Commission for use in formulating parole decisions; (2) reach agreement with the Parole Commission on the types of offender misconduct which should automatically be referred to the Institution Discipline Committee; and (3) monitor the success of efforts to improve the identification of offenders who have been convicted under 21 U.S.C. 848 and not eligible for parole consideration.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  18. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should require the Director of the Bureau of Prisons and the Commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service to work with the Chairman of the U.S. Parole Commission and the Chief of the Probation Division to develop a system for reporting the status of alien parolees released to the community pending deportation proceedings so that these individuals can be supervised.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  19. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should require the Director of the Marshals Service and the Assistant Director of the Criminal Division to work with the Chairman of the U.S. Parole Commission and the Chief of the Probation Division in developing procedures for parole supervision of offenders released to the Witness Security Program.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  20. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should require the Director of the Bureau of Prisons and the Commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service to develop procedures which, to the extent possible, will result in scheduling deportation proceedings before aliens are released from prison.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  21. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Judicial Conference should develop proposed amendments to the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure to: (1) make defendents aware of the information that will be considered by the U.S. Parole Commission when making parole decisions; and (2) provide for mandatory disclosure of presentence reports to offenders.

    Agency Affected: Judicial Conference of the United States

  22. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Director of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts should require the Chief of the Probation Division to: (1) stress the importance of providing presentence reports which contain the information necessary for parole decisionmaking; and (2) establish procedures for routine quality control reviews of presentence reports.

    Agency Affected: Administrative Office of the United States Courts

  23. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should require the Director of the Executive Office of the U.S. Attorneys to work with the U.S. Parole Commission in developing a system for routinely advising U.S. Attorneys of parole decisions.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  24. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Chairman of the U.S. Parole Commission should clarify parole decisionmaking guidelines so that varying interpretations among hearing examiners will be minimized.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice: United States Parole Commission

 

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