Additional Resources:

Program Profile: Discretionary Parole in New Jersey

Evidence Rating: Promising - One study Promising - One study

Date: This profile was posted on September 25, 2017

Program Summary

This allows individuals to be released early from a prison in New Jersey and complete the remainder of their sentences under supervision, with the goal of reducing recidivism. The program is rated Promising. The treatment group released early from prison had statistically significantly lower rates of reconviction, number of days until reconviction, re-arrests, and days to re-arrest, compared with those who had completed their entire sentences and were unconditionally released to the community.

Program Description

Program Goals/Components
Discretionary Parole in New Jersey was designed to reduce recidivism by providing an option for individuals to be released prior to serving their maximum sentences, allowing them to serve the remainder of their sentences under supervision in the community. Discretionary parole provides support and supervision for community reentry for individuals who request and are granted early release, compared with those who voluntarily complete their full sentences and are granted unconditional release, without any services or supervision in the community.
To be considered for discretionary parole, incarcerated individuals must attend a release hearing prior to their parole eligibility date, where their bid for release is discussed. If they meet the criteria, they are released to parole services as usual.
Target Population
In New Jersey, if incarcerated individuals demonstrate that they are not likely to fail while on parole and have demonstrated their investment in their own rehabilitation (for example, they have not had serious institutional disciplinary infractions, they have participated in institutional programs, and they have a viable parole plan), they are likely to be granted parole on their eligibility date if they request it (Osterman 2012).
Program Theory
Formerly incarcerated persons face a variety of challenges as they reintegrate back into their communities, including their own limited education and employment experience, potential substance use, and physical health issues. In addition, they face challenges such as securing and maintaining stable housing and navigating family roles (Osterman, 2012). Discretionary parole is based on the idea that the services provided by parole officers will aid the transition back into the community and reduce recidivism more effectively than simply releasing incarcerated persons back into the community after serving a longer sentence.

Evaluation Outcomes

top border
Study 1
Ostermann (2012) found that a greater proportion of those who completed their entire sentences and were unconditionally released (max out group) were re-arrested, compared with those released early on discretionary parole (DP) during the 3-year follow-up period.  

Time to Re-arrest

Those in the max out group were re-arrested more quickly (3 months sooner), compared with those in the DP group.
A greater proportion of the max out group was reconvicted, compared with those on DP during the 3-year follow-up period.  

Time to Reconviction

Those in the max out group were reconvicted more quickly (3 months sooner), compared with those in the DP group.
bottom border

Evaluation Methodology

top border
Study 1
Ostermann (2012) conducted a quasi-experimental study, which compared recidivism between incarcerated persons who had completed their maximum prison sentences with those released early on discretionary parole. The full study sample consisted of all individuals who were released from prison in New Jersey in 2006. Of those for whom criminal history was known, a total of 6,464 were released on discretionary parole, and 1,372 voluntarily completed their full sentences, referred to in the study as “max outs.”  

To control for prerelease differences, propensity scores were used to match voluntary max outs to those on discretionary parole; this resulted in a final sample of 991 individuals per group. Scores were constructed through predictive modeling (using binary logistic regression) with the following covariates: 1) age, 2) ethnicity, 3) type of instant offense, 4) number of instant offenses, 5) actuarial risk score, and 6) criminal history. 
The discretionary parole group had an average age of 35.8 years and was 91.4 percent male. The racial/ethnic breakdown was 21.3 percent white and 78.7 percent minority. The voluntary max out group had an average age of 35.7 years and was 89.9 percent male. The racial/ethnic breakdown was 22.9 percent white and 77.6 percent minority. 
To measure recidivism (re-arrest and reconviction), t-tests (two-tailed) and chi-square analyses were conducted. Kaplan-Meier survival analyses were conducted to examine group differences over time while accounting for time at risk experienced by the group members. No subgroup analysis was conducted.
bottom border


top border
There is no cost information available for this program.
bottom border

Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)

top border
These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Study 1
Ostermann, Michael. 2012. "Recidivism and the Propensity to Forgo Parole Release." Justice Quarterly 29(4):596–618.

bottom border

Related Practices

top border
Following are practices that are related to this program:

Adult Reentry Programs
This practice involves correctional programs that focus on the transition of individuals from prison into the community. Reentry programs involve treatment or services that have been initiated while the individual is in custody and a follow-up component after the individual is released. The practice is rated Promising for reducing recidivism.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Promising - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Multiple crime/offense types
bottom border

Program Snapshot

Age: 26 - 45

Gender: Both

Race/Ethnicity: White, Other

Geography: Rural, Suburban, Urban

Setting (Delivery): Other Community Setting

Program Type: Aftercare/Reentry, Alternatives to Incarceration, Probation/Parole Services

Targeted Population: Prisoners

Current Program Status: Active

Listed by Other Directories: National Reentry Resource Center

Michael Ostermann
Assistant Professor
Rutgers University School of Criminal Justice
123 Washington Street
Newark NJ 07102