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Publication A National Survey of Parole-related Legislation Enacted during the 1979 Legislative Session

Michael Kannensohn, Council of State Governments

December 1, 1979    NCJ 64218

A questionnaire was forwarded to the legislative research agency in each state requesting information on legislative action for 10 generic categories of parole-related legislation. Forty of the 50 agencies responded. Two distinguishable types of sentencing legislation reform approaches could be discerned. The first type aims at replacing indeterminate sentences with some form of determinacy. Mandatory and determinate sentencing statutes are representative of this approach and are designed to abolish parole-release decisionmaking. A second approach has been to enact legislation to improve existing indeterminate sentencing systems by revising controversial features. In general, legislatures have focused heavily on the first approach. Under the determinate sentencing model, three types of legislation have emerged: presumptive sentencing, determinate discretionary and sentencing guidelines. To date, six states have passed presumptive sentencing bills; only two states have passed determinate discretionary provisions; and sentencing guidelines legislation was considered only in the state of Washington. In each of the 1979 determinate sentencing enactments, the parole release mechanism was abolished except for those offenders sentenced under the previous indeterminate system. The second type of sentencing approach, mandatory sentencing, eliminates judicial and parole board discretion by requiring imprisonment for selected categories of offenses. In 1979, 17 states passed one or more mandatory sentencing bills. Other legislative activity focused on contract parole, parole guidelines, due process protections in parole proceedings, and parole services funding. A survey form and a table depicting 1979 parole-related legislation are appended.

Part of the Probation and Parole Populations Series

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