suffer major consequences. This can be characterized as analogous to the “broken windows” approach to law enforcement, because it rests on the assumption that minor violations, if left unattended, can lead to more serious ones (Wilson and Kelling, 1982; Cartier, Farabee, and Pendergast, 2006).
Tracking violations can be complex because of large caseloads. Many parolees meet with their parole officer on an infrequent basis, so detection of violations may seem almost random. But officers have broad discretion in most cases in the way they supervise their caseloads. They can give specific parolees that worry them more attention. Research indicates that parolees who are more closely supervised have higher violation rates.
Many behaviors that involve compliance with the rules of parole can be the subject of the supervision process. Abstinence from illicit drug use can be monitored by chemical testing. For releasees with established drug problems, testing can be frequent enough (i.e., twice a week) to leave little or no window for undetected drug use. At that frequency, tests can be scheduled in advance, making them less disruptive to parolees’ lives. Parolees without known drug problems and those who have proven their ability to refrain from drug use by a long series of negative tests can be monitored by random testing. These approaches are in contrast to the practice of infrequent testing on announced dates, which can be virtually an open invitation to use drugs other than in the few days before the scheduled test. For those parolees subject to frequent testing, the efficacy of the threat of sanctions in reducing drug use is greatly enhanced by the use of testing methods that provide on-the-spot results. Other parole rules—such as curfews, stay-away orders, and requirements to appear at work or for treatment—can be verified by electronic monitoring.
The level of contentiousness that sometimes characterizes this debate over violating specified conditions of parole may be lessened by combining realistic and enforceable release conditions with graduated incentives and consequences (i.e., graduated responses). For example, Andrews and Bonta (1998) and Taxman (2006) specifically discuss the importance of using rewards in the process as a means of encouraging compliance with program requirements.
Positive incentives for compliance are important complements to sanctions for violations. Less intrusive supervision and the remission of previously collected fines are both likely to be valued by releasees, but a wide variety of rewards, such as tickets to sporting events, may also have a role. The benefits of even small reductions in recidivism can easily cover the costs of such rewards; the greater challenge may be in devising the rewards and justifying them to policy makers and the public.