U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Trends in State Parole, 1990-2000

Wednesday, October 3, 2001 202/307-0784


WASHINGTON, D.C. - About four in every ten persons discharged from parole in 1999 had successfully completed their term of supervision in the community, the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) announced today. The success rate was higher among parolees who had been released from a state prison by a parole board (54 percent) than for parolees whose release was required by law (33 percent). Almost all adults on parole, a period of conditional supervision following a prison term, had been convicted of a felony (97 percent).

Success rates have remained relatively stable since 1990. Parolees age 55 or older (54 percent) and females (48 percent) had higher success rates than those younger than 25 (36 percent) and males (39 percent).

Between 1990 and 1999 success rates among black parolees increased from 33 percent to 39 percent and among Hispanic parolees from 31 percent to 51 percent. However, success rates for white parolees fell from 44 percent to 41 percent. In 1999, 47 percent of persons released to state parole were black, 35 percent were white, 16 percent were Hispanic and 1 percent were of other races.

The number of adults under state parole supervision at the end of 2000 totaled 652,199, up 30 percent since 1990. The state parole population rose steadily early in the decade (up 23 percent between 1990 and 1992) and then leveled off (increasing by less than 1 percent per year between 1992 and 2000). About 312 adults per 100,000 adult U.S. residents were on state-supervised parole in 2000, compared to 271 in 1990.

During 2000 more than 441,600 men and women were released from prison and placed on parole, which was 27 percent more than in 1990. Thirty-five percent of those entering parole during 1999 were drug offenders, up from 27 percent in 1990.

By the end of last year 15 states had abolished parole board authority for releasing all offenders, and an additional 5 states had abolished parole board authority for releasing certain violent offenders

As a result of the move away from releases by parole boards (discretionary parole), releases required by law (mandatory parole) became the most common method of leaving state prisons. Discretionary parole releases from state prisons dropped from 39 percent of all releases in 1990 to 24 percent in 1999, while mandatory releases increased from 29 percent to 41 percent. Almost 18 percent of prisoners released in 1999 (up from 13 percent in 1990) had served their entire prison term and were not subject to parole supervision.

On average, prisoners released by parole boards in 1999 had served more time in prison and jail (35 months) than prisoners released by mandatory parole (33 months). Since 1990 time served has increased by 6 months on average for prisoners released to parole and by 5 months for prisoners released unconditionally through the expiration of their sentence.

Fifty-six percent of released prisoners had been in prison on a prior occasion. Twenty-seven percent had been on parole at the time of their rearrest and return to prison. Success rates for prisoners being released to parole for the first time from their current sentence were higher (63 percent) than for parolees who had violated parole in the past (21 percent).

In 1999 almost 200,000 parole violators were returned to state prisons, up from 131,500 in 1990. As a percentage of all state prison admissions, parole violators more than doubled, going from 17 percent in 1980 to 35 percent in 1999.

Parole violators accounted for more than half of prison admissions in California (67 percent), Utah (55 percent) and Montana and Louisiana (both 53 percent). Florida and Alabama had the lowest percentages, 7 percent and 9 percent respectively.

Seventy percent of parole violators in prison had been arrested or convicted of a new offense while on parole. More than one in five had absconded and one in six had a drug-related violation.

Among prisoners expected to be released by the end of 1999, 84 percent reported drug or alcohol involvement at the time of their current offense. Almost 25 percent were alcohol dependent, and 21 percent had committed their offense to obtain money for drugs. Fourteen percent were determined to be mentally ill, and 12 percent were homeless at the time of their arrest.

The report, "Trends in State Parole, 1990-2000" (NCJ-184735) was written by BJS statisticians Timothy A. Hughes, Doris J. Wilson and Allen J. Beck.

After the release date these materials will be available at: http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/index.cfm?ty=pbdetail&iid=822

The BJS Internet site is: http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/

Additional criminal justice materials can be obtained from the Office of Justice Programs homepage at: http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov

# # #

E-mail: [email protected]
After hours contact: Stu Smith at 301/983-9354

Date Published: October 3, 2001