Articles on Parole Decision-Making

2022: Representing juvenile lifers: do attorneys in parole hearings matter?

Courts and scholars have advocated for the right to legal representation in the parole process. The state examined in this study qualified that juvenile lifer parole candidates have the right to an attorney at their initial parole board hearing. Data drawn from written decisions issued by the state parole board were analyzed to determine the association between having an attorney and type of legal representation on two parole outcomes: (1) whether a candidate was granted or denied parole, and (2) length of interval terms, that is, number of years that a candidate waits for another hearing. While having an attorney at the hearing was not related to both outcomes, type of representation was associated with interval terms. Hearings with appointed (non-retained) attorneys were associated with reduced odds of a maximum interval term, while having retained attorneys was related to higher odds of a maximum interval term. Hence, state efforts to provide counsel are necessary since their presence is significantly associated with the ultimate time served by juvenile lifer candidates. Findings support the need for more comparative research across states as well as the inclusion of other parole-eligible populations.

2022: Young Enough for the Maximum: Discretionary Release Decisions in the Post-Miller Era (with Simon Singer & Damla Cehreli)

Based on U.S. Supreme Court decisions recognizing adolescence, we examined the likelihood of parole in one state for a population of candidates whose ages ranged from 14 to 21 at time of offense. Logistic regressions tested age on release, controlling for offense, adolescence-related, and rehabilitative variables. Contrary to expectations, a parole candidate’s age at time of offense is not associated with release nor did age interact with culpability and rehabilitation measures. Instead, victim and prosecutorial opposition is related to a lower likelihood of release where the opposition effect is greater for those 18 years and older at time of offense. These findings reiterate the need for comparative research on parole decision-making as it may vary by time and place.

2022: Parole Revoked: Justifying Rerelease for Juvenile Lifers (with Beatriz Wronski)

A juvenile lifer’s parole can be revoked and justified for technical or new crime violations of supervision conditions. We analyze narratives contained in revocation decisions issued to juvenile lifer candidates by one state parole board. Our qualitative content analysis reveals that most parole revocations stem from technical violations rather than any new criminal activity. In addition, decision statements qualify aspects of a juvenile lifer candidate’s case in opposite ways, where identified themes are presented as accomplishments to grant parole, but as claims made by the candidate to deny re-release. In categorizing candidates as deserving or undeserving of parole, suitability for re-release is represented in the parole board’s interpretation of risk in terms of a candidate’s moral responsibility. By doing so, parole revocation review decisions avoid acknowledging the obstacles in juvenile lifer reentry.

2023: Now with the possibility of parole: Enabling a juvenile lifer’s meaningful review (With Simon Singer)

Parole is one of the least visible decision-making processes in the criminal justice system. We consider decision statements that support or reject release as symbolic of organizational concerns beyond the candidate’s individual attributes. To draw out the symbolic, we focus on decision statements issued to 33 juvenile lifers previously ineligible for parole. We find that what is meaningful to a parole board is highly selective, and there is no generalized presumption of mitigated culpability and capacity for rehabilitation. Rather release is justified based on childhood abuse, peer dependency and a redemptive self. In contrast, denying narratives selectively highlight the seriousness of the sentencing offence by focusing on the ‘horrific,’ and the retributive requirement for more time to be served.


Concerns over state and federal correctional budgets and the motivation to undo decades of mass incarceration have placed the institution of parole under the spotlight. While there is research on the correlates of parole decision-making, there has not been much examination of whether these correlates vary by age group. A critical segment of the incarcerated population is comprised of the elderly. For this reason, we draw on a sample of written parole board decisions from one state from the years 2015 through 2020 to examine whether the correlates of parole decisions vary by candidate’s age at the time of their parole hearings. Our findings demonstrate that age alone does not matter but influences decision-making when accounting for specific covariates. Evidence of rehabilitation remains the strongest indicator of parole release, though there is variation in the type of evidence that matters for the elderly versus the non-elderly. We suggest that with a better understanding of how age is related to decision-making, parole candidates will be able to draw on their age-based capacities to make an effective case for release.


In the 2012 decision in Miller v. Alabama, the U.S. Supreme Court directed states to provide a “meaningful opportunity to obtain release” to juvenile lifers—one that acknowledges their lesser culpability and rehabilitative potential. In the state examined, the parole board revised its decision-making guidelines in 2014 by incorporating the Miller ruling. Logistic regression and survival analyses were employed to examine parole outcomes. Hearings that took place in the post-Miller period and the candidate’s rehabilitative status were associated with a higher likelihood of release. A candidate’s rehabilitative efforts were also associated with the amount of time taken to decide grant or denial of release, as were factors related to the candidate’s sentencing offense such as time served and opposition at the parole hearing. Overall, the guidelines representing the Miller ruling seem to have influenced the outcome as well as the speed at which decisions are reached by the parole board

*Presented at 2022 Annual ACJS Meeting


About one in seven individuals are currently in prison serving a life sentence. A substantial proportion of this incarcerated population have the opportunity for early release through parole. Given the complexity and variety of parole board systems, capturing a comprehensive understanding of parole decision-making is imperative. This article provides a state of the art review of statutory and administrative provisions describing parole practices for individuals serving life sentences were collected and evaluated by employing content analytical techniques. We find that the formalization of discretionary release procedures in statutes, administrative rules, and policy manuals reflects a confluence of perspectives ranging from the punitive to the rehabilitative in terms of the structure of parole boards, extent of due process rights to candidates, and the factors considered in decision-making. Conducting an inductive, exploratory examination of parole decision-making across the United States provides a new lens into the routinization and diversity of parole board practices.

*Presented at 2023 Annual ACJS Meeting


Due to the growing concerns of mass incarceration, coupled with the recent global pandemic of COVID-19, parole is in the spotlight as an avenue for early release. At the start of COVID-19, the elderly incarcerated population received attention due to their vulnerabilities. In this article, the likelihood of parole release and the amount of time candidates must wait post-denial are examined by accounting for the COVID-19 period and a parole candidate’s elderly status. Data comes from a U.S. state parole board’s written decisions issued between 2017 and 2022 for individuals sentenced to life with the possibility of parole. While logistic regression models showed COVID-19 and elderly status did not influence the likelihood of release, OLS models found that having a hearing after the onset of the pandemic was significantly associated with shorter interval term lengths. The article concludes with implications for replicating similar studies to understand discretionary release outcomes.

*Presented at 2023 Annual ASC meeting


Victim representatives including prosecutors can provide written or verbal statements at parole hearings. The juvenile lifer population is unique in that they have been sentenced to life as teenagers for violent offenses. Drawing on a mixed methodological approach, we find that having more opposition and prosecutorial presence negatively influences likelihood of release and increases the odds that a juvenile lifer candidate must wait for a subsequent hearing post-denial. Content analysis of victim impact statements from a sample of juvenile lifer hearings revealed the performative element of opposition. We conclude with research and policy implications for advancing procedural justice.

Articles on Juvenile Offending

2018: The Role of Parental Maltreatment and Parental Social Control on Self-Reported Violent Offending in Indonesia and the U.S.: Does Gender Make a Difference? (With Ineke haen Marshall & Chris E. Marshall)

In this article, we examine the role of parental maltreatment and parental social control in violent delinquency in two different countries: Indonesia and the U.S. but we go further by asking if gender makes a difference. We use a sample of Indonesian and U.S. youths from ISRD3 data, a self-reported survey instrument administered across multiple countries. We use logistic regressions to examine the associations between parental maltreatment, parental social control and self-reported violent delinquency and test whether gender and country modifies these associations. We find that both gender and country are significant predictors of violent delinquency. Further, there are differences between Indonesian and U.S. youths in terms of the predictors that are associated with violent delinquent offending. Specifically, parental maltreatment in the form of direct exposure to parental violence is a significant predictor for U.S. youths but not Indonesian youths whereas parental supervision is a significant deterrent of violent offending for both. We also find that girls are more likely to report violent offending than males when indirectly exposed to violence. Thus, our findings reiterate that both gender and context matter.

2020: How Exceptional Is India? A Test of Situational Action Theory (With Ineke haen Marshall &  Chris E. Marshall)

This study explores the generalizability of Situational Action Theory (SAT) in India by testing hypotheses related to the person–environment interaction in explaining offending. Drawing on data from a sample of 872 students between the ages of 14 and 17 from an Indian city collected as part of the International Self-Report Delinquency Study (ISRD3), we tested the hypothesis that Indian youths will report more delinquent acts if they have a higher propensity to commit crime combined with a greater exposure to criminogenic activities. Our findings show unequivocal support for the applicability of SAT in India where youths reported a slight increase in offending behavior if they exercised low self-control or if they were less moralistic (i.e., they were more crime-prone), or when exposed to criminal activities or peers. Consistent with tests of SAT in other contexts, we find that exposure to criminogenic environments increases offending for youth with higher levels of criminal propensity but does not impact youth with lower levels of criminal propensity. We speculate that the overall low rate of delinquent offending coupled with the cultural milieu of Indian youths may explain why criminogenic exposure may be less relevant in light of young people’s strong avoidance of rule-breaking.

2021: Does national moral context make a difference? A comparative test of Situational Action Theory (With Ineke haen Marshall & Chris E. Marshall)

This study examines whether Situational Action Theory (SAT) can explain variation in delinquent offending between countries grouped along shared moral values. Thirteen countries were categorised in terms of “contextual morality” according to results from the World Values Survey. Then, survey data from a cross-section of 12 to 16-year-old youths in the International Self-Report Delinquency Study (ISRD3) were employed to test hypotheses that SAT operates differently between countries in “low contextual morality” and “high contextual morality” clusters. Multivariate analyses reveal that SAT is a generalisable theory of offending, since criminal propensity, self-control and personal morality operate in both low and high contextual morality country clusters. While exposure to criminogenic influence is the most salient, it is significantly higher in the “high contextual morality” cluster, suggesting that delinquent behaviour is more frequent when there is inconsistency between personal morality and the broader moral context. We conclude with implications for theory and policy.

* Presented at 2021 annual ESC meeting

2024: Testing Key Concepts of Three Delinquency Theories in a Multi-National Sample of Adolescents (With Ineke Haen Marshall & Chris E. Marshall)

We test the generalizability of three mainstream delinquency theories across different cultural contexts by differentiating their core theoretical elements in general strain theory (economic stress, negative life events, victimization), social learning theory (deviant friends, beliefs) and social control theory (self-control, social bonds, parental supervision). We draw on data collected from 67,004 youth aged 12 to 16 years old from 33 countries in the International Self-Report Delinquency project (ISRD3) where cultural context is operationalized by nine country clusters. OLS models show that several variables (delinquent friends, victimization, self-control, parental supervision, anticipated shame, pro-social values) have different but significant effects across all country clusters, supporting the universality of these correlates. However, not all correlates (teacher bonds, family deprivation, social bonds) were statistically significant, suggesting a mediating role for culture. When accounting for the explanatory power of the models, we find variation across country clusters. Furthermore, the test for the predictive equality of coefficients for a subsample of clusters found significant differences for some variables. We conclude with recommendations for future research and cross-national criminology development.

*Presented at 2021 annual ASC meeting

Articles on Criminal Legal Policies and Responses

2021: Contextualizing the Impact of Legal Representation on Juvenile Delinquency Outcomes: A Review of Research and Policy (with Annie Tallas & Kelly Goggin)

This study examines the empirical research on legal representation in delinquency proceedings and situates it in the broader investigation of how states provide legal assistance to juvenile defendants. Our review of empirical studies found that attorney presence was an aggravating factor in dispositional decisions. After closely examining state statutory provisions on legal representation in juvenile delinquency proceedings, we suggest that the penalty effect of attorney presence is an artifact of the variation in state laws governing access and oversight of juvenile counsel. We conclude with suggestions for future research, policy, and practice.

2021: Too Young for the Crime, Yet Old Enough to do Life: A Critical Review of How State Felony Murder Laws Apply to Juvenile Defendants (with Beck Strah & Anya Bornstein)

The felony murder rule applies when a killing occurs during the commission of a felony offense. Youth under the age of 18 years can be charged with felony murder even if they did not commit the killing or intend the death of the victim, and subsequently sentenced to an adult maximum sentence, including life in prison. This study examines how states enable lengthy sentencing terms for their juvenile defendants charged with felony murder. By reviewing felony murder provisions and state appellate court decisions in all fifty states and the District of Columbia, we identify how juveniles who did not commit the act of homicide and/or intend for the killing in a felony murder are sentenced to lengthy prison terms. We conclude with a call to recognize that punishment terms of juveniles for felony murder should be viewed as unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment.

2021: Re-Examining India’s Juvenile Justice Framework: A Call to Recognize a Juvenile’s Mitigated Culpability and Potential for Reform (with Anshul Dalmia)

The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act of 2015 was introduced with the intention of strengthening the Indian juvenile justice system. The law, passed primarily in response to the Nirbhaya incident in 2012, was intended to propagate the welfare and rehabilitation of children in conflict with the law. However, certain provisions of the legislation governing juvenile justice, are antithetical to its stated intentions, since they focus on the nature of the alleged offence. Specifically, the transfer mechanism that allows 16 to 18-year-olds to be tried as adults based on the offence alleged is contrary to our understanding of adolescence as a period of transition. Moreover, while the principle of ‘ fresh start’ that would expunge juvenile records is well-intentioned, the exception of ‘special circumstances’ circumvents the ability of juveniles to fully reintegrate post-justice system involvement. Both these provisions represent a deterrence framework model which presumes that juveniles are able to rationalize their decisions in the same way as adults. This paper expands on the critiques of these provisions and provides alternate options for the prevention of juvenile crime and treatment of juveniles already in contact with the justice system. These suggestions are rooted in social scientific research that calls for recognizing the situational circumstances of adolescents and their rehabilitative potential.

2023: Technically not life: how de facto life sentences condemn juveniles to die in prison (with Victoria Laugalis, Meghan Koza & michael Vaughn)

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Jones v. Mississippi reignited interest in the constitutionality of lengthy prison sentences for juveniles. A substantial proportion of juveniles convicted of homicide and non-homicide are currently serving “virtual life” or “de facto life” sentences. De facto life sentences are lengthy sentences that may be considered the equivalent of a life sentence. This article investigates how states’ statutory schemes and appellate court decisions have allowed for the use of de facto life sentences for juveniles convicted of homicide as well as non-homicide offenses. By employing content analytical techniques, this article identifies the variation in how de facto life sentences are defined and applied across the states. Nearly every state imposes some type of de facto life sentence on juveniles, suggesting that the time is ripe for courts to determine whether these “virtual life” terms adhere to the Court’s Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

*Presented at 2022 annual ACJS meeting


The United States Supreme Court has recognized the developmental and cognitive differences between juveniles and adults in determining criminal culpability for violent crimes. The recognition of lesser culpability constitutes a “youth discount” (Feld, 2013) in sentencing where juveniles are precluded from receiving the death penalty (Roper v. Simmons, 2005), life without any possibility of parole for violent non-homicide offenses (Graham v. Florida, 2010), and automatic life without parole (LWOP) for homicide offenses (Miller v. Alabama, 2012). More recently, the Supreme Court in Jones v. Mississippi (2021) signaled that states can sentence juveniles to LWOP without a fact-finding requirement of permanent incorrigibility. In this article, we explore whether the Supreme Court rulings have influenced states to revise their statutes to incorporate a “youth discount” for juveniles convicted of homicide offenses. To do so, we analyze state sentencing statutes in all 50 states to compare sentencing standards and examine the use of LWOP within states’ geographic region, political majority, and juvenile homicide crime rates. We conclude with implications for state sentencing policies.


Restorative justice is a transformative approach to addressing deviant and criminal behavior through accountability and healing. While several studies examine legislation pertaining to the use of restorative justice programs for adults and juveniles, the implementation varies widely across states in terms of the types of services offered. A population that has been overlooked in restorative justice research and policy are emerging adults aged between 18 and 25. We drew on content analysis techniques to identify the extent to which restorative justice is offered to emerging adults across all fifty states and Washington DC. By doing so, we gain invaluable insight into the diverse services offered as well as challenges in providing restorative justice programs. The findings contribute valuable knowledge regarding restorative justice services offered by organizations by shedding light on their methods, successes, limitations, and potential areas for improvement.

Articles on Corrections

2023: Examining Parent-Child Contact Practices Among Incarcerated Parents With Mental Health Illness (with Eileen Ahlin & Dragana Derlic)

While there is a growing body of research on parent-child visitation among the general carceral population, less attention has been paid to examining parent-child contact practices among parents with mental health illness diagnoses. The current study uses a sample from the 2016 Survey of Prison Inmates to analyze the associations between mental health illness diagnosis and various modalities of parent-child contact. Multivariate analyses of types of mental health illness diagnoses on six parent-child contact modalities demonstrate heterogeneity where not all mental health diagnoses reduce all parent-child contacts. Furthermore, incarcerated parents with multiple mental health illnesses are less likely to experience most forms of contact including in-person visits, phone calls, and mail.

* Presented at 2021 annual ASC Meeting

Article Under review (With Dragana Derlic & Eileen Ahlin)

An ample amount of literature demonstrates the effects prison program participation has on facilitating skill-building, treatment, and family support which improve pre- and post-release outcomes. There is also a growing body of research on how increasing contact with children for parents who are incarcerated can improve these outcomes as as facilitate prison management and leverage reentry experiences. Less attention, however, has been paid to the effects of participation in a variety of prison programs on the likelihood of parent-child contact or use of different parent-child contact modalities. This study addresses the gap in previous research by examining the association between program participation and modalities of parent-child contact practices. We analyze data from a sample of incarcerated parents in state prisons from the 2016 Survey of Prison Inmates. Logistic regression models were employed to illustrate the links between program participation and six different types of parent-child contact practices. Findings show that different program involvement can affect the likelihood of increased or decreased parent-child contact during the period of incarceration. We conclude with implications for future research and policy as it relates to improving parent-child contact practices.

*Presented at 2022 annual ASC meeting


Restorative justice practices are popular alternatives for youth conflict resolutions in the juvenile justice system and schools. However, we do not know the extent to which states have formalized the use of restorative justice. We review state legislation to identify whether restorative justice has been codified in juvenile justice and public education statutes. Through a content analysis of relevant statutory provisions, we find considerable variation in how restorative justice is defined and its implementation in the juvenile justice and public-school systems. We conclude with policy implications for standardizing the understanding of restorative justice.

*Presented at 2022 annual ACJS Meeting


Prior research has examined the prevalence of mental health diagnosis among incarcerated individuals. However, there is little research that has explored the link between having a mental health diagnosis and receiving write-ups (i.e., notice of disciplinary infractions) during incarceration. To better understand the relationship between having a mental health diagnosis and the prevalence of disciplinary infractions, we draw on data from the 2016 Survey of Prison Inmates. We further analyze any differences in these links for males and females, while controlling for relevant demographic variables. Study findings have implications for specialized mental health care and training of correctional staff.

*Presented at 2024 annual ACJS Meeting

Articles on Criminal Justice Pedagogy


Contemporary global events have forced a re-evaluation of how criminal justice curriculum is delivered. Recent years have seen substantial developments in the offerings of global or comparative criminology courses. However, the vast majority of engagement with scholarly work within the classroom remains U.S.-centric. This is highly problematic, as it encourages a siloed approach to the study of criminal justice and criminology. In this article, we examine the incorporation of global diversity within the pedagogical texts of criminal justice classrooms via two dimensions: 1) engagement with international scholars represented within the Journal of Criminal Justice Education, our flagship journal for education, to understand how we engage with global pedagogical practices and 2) surveying of faculty members teaching in criminal justice and related areas to understand their salience of incorporating global scholarship into their courses in their syllabi and classroom to reflect diversity of place. Findings reveal that the pedagogical space remains highly nationalistic with room for growth in international engagement. We address the policy implications of failing as a discipline to foster a truly global criminological discourse, while providing recommendations for building an inclusive classroom that transcends beyond borders.