Dooming Failure: Understanding the Impact, Utility, and Practice of Returns on Technical Violations
Campbell, Christopher Michael
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Since its modern establishment in 1870, systems of parole or conditional release from incarceration have been understood as a test of "readiness." It is a test for returning offender's to demonstrate whether they are "ready" to be in society untethered from state control. Violating release conditions indicates that the offender is not ready, and requires further confinement. Over a century later this readiness assumption remains untested. As every state releases offenders under some form of the "readiness assumption," its lack of empirical support marks associated policies (e.g., parole revocation) as an assumption-driven practice that impacts more than 500,000 parolees a year. Within this practice, there are two major areas in need of research: (1) developing a baseline understanding of the types of people that make up a group of returned violators, and (2) the multifaceted impact of revoking parole status on the offender and the system. Through a data-sharing partnership between the Washington State Department of Corrections and Washington State University, this dissertation aims to fill this gap using cluster analyses to answer the question What are the characteristics of returned violators? and propensity score analyses to address the question What is the effect of returning someone to confinement due to a TV on future recidivism? in a quasi-experimental design. Findings from the cluster analyses revealed eight different profiles of violators who are returned, and six to seven different profiles among all others on community custody. The profiles demonstrate unique features that suggest divergence across characteristics such as social support (pro-social family and friends) and mental health problems among others. Results from the investigation into the effects of confinement as a violation sanction on recidivism revealed that, after all covariates are equal, returning someone to total confinement based on TVs actually increases the likelihood of the person committing a new crime. These results hold great potential as implications to community corrections by identifying a need for reform in traditional parole systems, emphasizing a need to trace and reassess how finite resources are being employed in practice, and whether such practice is theory- and evidence-driven, or if it is simply assumption-based.