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Parole Board adopts updates to the Parole Decision Guidelines

April 12, 2017
ATLANTA - The State Board of Pardons and Paroles this week approved updates to its Parole Decision Guidelines System. The changes are the first made since those adopted in 2007 and will enhance the Board’s ability to make informed, data-driven parole decisions. The changes were adopted at the Board’s April meeting on Tuesday.
“Best practices in parole decision-making supports that we routinely review and update the Parole Decision Guidelines System to ensure the Board receives complete and accurate information regarding new statewide sentencing averages along with outcomes from previous boards’ decisions in order that public safety is achieved through equitable and fair parole decisions,” stated Parole Board Chairman Terry Barnard.
When considering parole for offenders who will become statutorily eligible for parole consideration and who are serving less than a life sentence, through the application of the Parole Decision Guidelines System, the Board receives a recommendation of months, or a percentage of the sentence, to serve. The Guidelines System accounts for the severity of the crime and the offender's risk to reoffend. The offender's risk to reoffend is determined by weighted factors concerning the offender's criminal and social history that the Board has found to have value in predicting the probability of further criminal behavior.
While state law requires the Board to adopt and use guidelines in the parole decision making process, Georgia’s parole decision making guidelines are advisory in nature. Though advisory, the Board’s confidence in its guidelines is demonstrated in the members’ 82% compliance ratio when voting cases for Fiscal Year 2016.  
A vast majority of states use guidelines as a tool in decision making for a variety of reasons to include structure in decision making, to assure proportionality in terms of incarceration, to minimize sentence disparity and promote sentence uniformity, and to help aid in the predictability and outcomes of plea bargains.
The Board has the discretion to deviate from the recommendation to either increase or lower the time to serve prior to parole or vote to deny parole.
Among the updates to the Guidelines was to raise the crime severity level of certain conviction types. The higher the crime severity level, the more serious the offense and the likely result is a recommendation to serve a longer period of time. On the risk to re-offend scale, the Board will now include prior arrest episodes in place of conviction history for the offender, which through research has proven to be a better statistical predictor of future criminal behavior.
The Board partnered with Applied Research Services (ARS), Inc., to update the Guidelines. ARS used statistical data from more than 26,000 Georgia parole cases to recommend updates to the Guidelines.
The Board voted to approve the changes to the Guidelines following a 30-day public comment period required by the state’s Administrative Procedures Act allowing for the inclusion of community views. Over the past year, Executive Director of Parole Chris Barnett and Board staff met with stakeholders to include the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia (PACG) and the Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (GACDL) to seek and include their input in updates to the Guidelines.
"By updating the Board's Guidelines we ensure the members have the most accurate scientific data available to make informed data-driven parole decisions, therefore protecting the public," stated Director Chris Barnett.
The Board’s Guidelines were first developed in 1979 and codified in 1980 and have been updated several times since. The updated Guidelines will be implemented July 1, 2017.
For information and review of the changes please follow this link.
For more information about Applied Research Services, Inc., follow this link, http://ars-corp.com/.