Washington DC (April 9) –– For an individual who has been released from jail, there is perhaps no greater positive influence on them than their parole officer and other formerly incarcerated people. Indeed, a good parole officer can be the difference between a recently released person landing a job or ending up back in a prison cell and one who shares a criminal past can provide an invaluable example of successful rehabilitation.

In a new policy paper, R Street Senior Fellow Lars Trautman examines the challenges, risks and benefits of removing occupational restrictions that prohibit those with a criminal record from serving parole officers.

The paper argues that while there are risks, such a leap of faith would provide dividends to a parole department. While all parole officers can model law-abiding behavior, only one who shares a criminal past can provide an example of successful rehabilitation. In addition, the simple act of hiring these individuals sends a powerful signal to private employers about the value of looking past a criminal record in hiring decisions. And removing restrictions on parole positions for individuals with a criminal record is not as risky as it might first appear: Education and training requirements will ensure most individuals are outside of the high-risk of recidivism that exists immediately following release.

The author concludes: “[J]urisdictions would be well served to consider how they might incorporate successfully rehabilitated individuals into the ranks of their parole officials. If they truly believe that their parole systems are capable of rehabilitation, there is no better way to prove it.”