Any comprehensive program to change American prison policy must focus to a significant degree on prison-release discretion, where it exists, and its relationship to time served. This report from the University of Minnesota Law School’s Robina Institute of Criminal Law and Criminal Justice describes 12 “levers of change” related to potential discretionary parole release reforms.
The reforms are called “change levers” because, once a lever is pulled, it is designed to impact prison populations by altering parole grant rates and durations of time served. The report identifies 12 areas of innovation that, to some degree, have already been tried by a number of states. In most cases, from a distance, it is impossible to evaluate the quality of each state’s implementation of one or more change levers, or the results that have been achieved. But the fact that states have begun to experiment in specific areas shows that there is an appetite for reform. In addition, actual experimentation indicates that some of the groundwork has been laid for evaluation, improvement, and dissemination of promising ideas to many additional states.