May 19, 2021
The Prison Release: Degrees of Indeterminacy Project state reports provide an overview of how each state approaches prison-release discretion and the relationship between rules for prison release and prison population size. We evaluate the degree of indeterminacy in each jurisdiction by analyzing the rules, statutes, and policies that determine how long most individuals sentenced to prison spend incarcerated and what options they have for release. Each report includes a subjective ranking of the state’s level of indeterminacy in comparison with other states. States that have a low degree of indeterminacy provide a short window from first release eligibility to the maximum prison term, thus making the total prison stay length more predictable. In contrast, states with a high degree of indeterminacy have long windows spanning years, or even decades depending on the individual sentence. Finally, we examine the influence these policies can have on the prison population size in each state, concentrating on potential decreases or increases in prison population size that might be generated by changes in prison-release practices.
This project is supported by Arnold Ventures.