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Parolee deviance has emerged as a central issue in policy debates about crime and punishment in American society as well as in scholarship on “mass incarceration.” Although the prevailing approach to studying parolees conceives of parole violations as outcomes of individual propensities toward criminal behavior (i.e., criminogenic risk), we consider how indicators of individual risk and characteristics of formal social control systems combine to account for reported parole violations. Using data on California parolees, we examine the effects of parolees’ personal characteristics, their criminal histories, and the social organization of supervision on parole violations. We advance the notion of a “supervision regime”—a legal and organizational structure that shapes the detection and reporting of parolee deviance. Three components of a supervision regime are explored: 1) the intensity of supervision, 2) the capacity of the regime to detect parolee deviance, and 3) the tolerance of parole officials for parolee deviance. We find that personal characteristics and offense histories are predictive of parole violations. However, we also find that introducing supervision factors reduces the effects of offense history variables on violation risk, suggesting that the violation risks of serious, violent, and sexual offenders are partially explainable through the heightened supervision to which they are subject. In addition, we find that supervision intensity and tolerance are generally predictive of violation risk. Capacity effects are present but weak. We conclude with a discussion of how the supervision regimes concept illuminates the gap between macro- and micro-analyses of social control.
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Keywords: parole supervision; parole violations; social control; societal reaction; supervision regime

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of SociologyUniversity of California—Davis 2: Department of Sociology and CriminologyUniversity of Denver 3: Stanford Law SchoolStanford University

Publication date: 2011-05-01

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