American Exceptionalism in Parole Release and Supervision: A European Perspective

in American Exceptionalism in Crime and Punishment (Kevin R. Reitz ed., Oxford University Press 2018) (with Dirk van Zyl Smit), pp. 410-486.

77 Pages Posted: 25 Jul 2016 Last revised: 18 Nov 2018

See all articles by Dirk van Zyl Smit

Dirk van Zyl Smit

University of Cape Town

Alessandro Corda

Queen's University Belfast - School of Law; University of Minnesota Law School

Date Written: July 19, 2016

Abstract

This chapter explores the quantitative and qualitative dimension of parole on both sides of the Atlantic. It sheds light on a story of partially common historical roots but also of independent developments, showing how American parole has had a different trajectory from that in Europe. In the Old Continent, discourse on conditional release revolves around human dignity and procedural justice rather than public safety. In the U.S., parole boards are usually staffed with political appointees whose release decisions are risk-averse and affected by the political climate. In most European countries parole decisions are made by special sentence implementation courts that are part of an independent judicial branch of government. They exercise their function insulated from political pressure — a circumstance American parole boards can scarcely dream of. In the final part, the paper reflects on whether some core traits of the European model of parole may take root in the U.S. as well. It argues that recent signs in criminal justice reform in America may facilitate an approach that places greater emphasis on the dignity of potential parolees as well as released offenders subject to supervision in the community. The chapter also stresses the desirability of a progressive shift in the U.S. towards a quasi-judicial model of parole boards, where the reduced public accountability of such bodies would be largely compensated by increased independence and professionalism in decision-making.

Keywords: parole; community supervision; sentencing; comparative law; criminal justice

Suggested Citation

van Zyl Smit, Dirk and Corda, Alessandro, American Exceptionalism in Parole Release and Supervision: A European Perspective (July 19, 2016). in American Exceptionalism in Crime and Punishment (Kevin R. Reitz ed., Oxford University Press 2018) (with Dirk van Zyl Smit), pp. 410-486.. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2811828

Dirk Van Zyl Smit

University of Cape Town

Private Bag X3
Rondebosch, Western Cape 7701
South Africa

Alessandro Corda (Contact Author)

Queen's University Belfast - School of Law ( email )

School of Law
Belfast, BT7 1NN
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://pure.qub.ac.uk/en/persons/alessandro-corda

University of Minnesota Law School ( email )

229 19th Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55455
United States

HOME PAGE: http://robinainstitute.umn.edu/people/alessandro-corda

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