Pennsylvania DOC Parole Outcome Study

The Pennsylvania Department of Correction’s (PA DOC) did a Parole Violator Study. The intent of the study was to determine the factors relating to success or failure on parole and to assemble a broad inventory of the needs of released offenders in order to prioritize departmental resources and develop more effective treatment services. The study showed the critical importance of pro-social/emotional intelligence skills for successful re-entry. The Immersive-Experiential © training design has proven very effective as an Emotional Intelligence inoculation. Here is a summary of the study’s findings and a link to the publish report from the study.

Summary and Policy Implications

  1. Simply finding a job and a place to live are not the major reentry concerns that they are sometimes considered.
  2. There is a clear link between anti-social peer groups and recidivism.
  3. Parole violators had more difficulty with basic life skills, e.g., financial management.
  4. Substance abuse relapse is correlated with parole violation.
  5. Parole successes had more positive relationships with partner/spouse, had a mentor and had a good experience with community corrections.
  6. The overarching theme is that there are three primary factors differentiating successes from failures:
  • Parole violators maintain more unrealistic post-release life expectations.
  • Parole violators demonstrate more anti-social attitudes, values and beliefs.
  • Parole violators have poor coping or problem solving skills.

Successes clearly went through the same rough times and faced the same types of problems and emotional difficulties that violators experienced.

There was a general anti-social disposition among violators.  They were more likely:

  1. View violating parole as an acceptable option of behavior.
  2. Maintain a general lack of empathy for others.
  3. Shift blame or deny responsibility for negative behavior.

Many violators could identify their problems but could not come up with a strategy for addressing them.  They were not shy about providing long explanations for why they had previously violated parole, but they were unable to provide a cogent response to how they would handle the future.

Some sort of dysphoric emotion [e.g., stress, depression, frustration, worry, anger, etc.] was the strongest emotion experienced during the 48 hours preceding parole violation.  Dysphoric emotions also tend to be cumulative, with a majority of violators experiencing multiple types of dysphoric emotions preceding violation characterized by a variety of confusing and unpleasant emotions.  Clearly a correlation was present between being in a dysphoric emotional state and violating parole.  


  1. Offender programming should focus on cognitive-behavioral types of treatment.
  2. Teach financial responsibility and money management skills.
  3. Move beyond employment and housing and teach employability skills and instill a positive attitude towards employment.
  4. Instill overall pro-social attitudes, including inter-personal relationships and community supervision.
  5. Maintain positive pro-social relationships [mentor, spouse, counselor, etc].
  6. Intensive types of substance abuse treatment programs, such as TCs.
  7. In-prison programs encourage offenders to maintain realistic post-release expectations.