Can Parole Reduce Both Time Served and Crime?

39 Pages Posted: 2 Jun 2022 Last revised: 12 Apr 2024

See all articles by William Arbour

William Arbour

University of Montreal - Département de sciences économiques; University of Toronto - Department of Economics

Steeve Marchand

University of Melbourne - Melbourne Institute: Applied Economic & Social Research

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Date Written: April 11, 2024

Abstract

We estimate the causal effect of parole on recidivism by exploiting the random assignment of parole board members to hearings in Quebec (Canada). Parolees in Quebec undergo a thorough selection process and are often required to stay in halfway houses for the remainder of their sentences, where they are provided with substantial rehabilitation assistance. We find that parole, in this context, increases reincarceration but decreases new sentences. To explain these results, we decompose the effect of parole on incarceration time into i) the direct reduction of the incarceration spell due to parole, ii) technical violations of parole conditions leading to reincarceration, and iii) future sentences. The positive reincarceration effect arises from technical violations, resulting in parolees being reincarcerated for a period of time on average shorter than the additional time they would have served without parole. Consequently, parole increases rearrests but still decreases time spent in prison. We find that, despite parolees being incapacitated for a shorter period, parole decreases the probability of committing new crimes. Our findings suggest that well-designed and targeted parole policies can simultaneously reduce incarceration and crime.

Keywords: parole, recidivism, halfway houses, reentry

JEL Classification: K42

Suggested Citation

Arbour, William and Marchand, Steeve, Can Parole Reduce Both Time Served and Crime? (April 11, 2024). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4125892 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4125892

William Arbour

University of Montreal - Département de sciences économiques ( email )

3150, rue Jean-Brillant
Montreal, QC H3T 1N8
Canada

University of Toronto - Department of Economics ( email )

3150, rue Jean-Brillant
Montréal, Quebec H3T 1N8
Canada

Steeve Marchand (Contact Author)

University of Melbourne - Melbourne Institute: Applied Economic & Social Research ( email )

Level 5, FBE Building, 111 Barry Street
Parkville, Victoria 3010
Australia

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