Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites; in proportion as their love of justice is above their rapacity; in proportion as their soundness and sobriety of understanding is above their vanity and presumption; in proportion as they are more disposed to listen to the counsels of the wise and the good, in preference to the flattery of knaves. Society cannot exist unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere, and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.

—Edmund Burke. Letter to a Member of the National Assembly, January 19, 1791

The government has a duty to ensure that ex-convicts do not re-offend. Thus the rules of conduct for a parolee should be much stricter than those for regular citizens. This is based on the theory that the parolee will first break a petty rule that harms no one else before he ventures to break the criminal law. So a parolee who was originally imprisoned for drunken vehicular homicide should be returned to jail for entering a tavern, not when he kills again. The sex offender should be jailed for breaking curfew, even if he was just going out for pizza. The sad truth is that no matter how thorough the reformation program in prison is, some people just cannot learn from their mistakes. Parole laws should require ex-felons to lead puritanical lives so that those unfit to walk the streets can be identified before they harm innocents.

The following is a model for a well-run parole system:

  • Parolees should learn a vocation and gain employment before they leave prison. Putting an ex-felon back on the streets with no means of support is illogical (if the aim is to protect society) and unfair to the parolee, who has no way to legally support himself;
  • Parolees should be required to rent and furnish an apartment before they leave prison, using the earnings of their remote employment. These dwellings should be fitted with sensors similar to those in their prison cell so they can be subject to similar rules and punishments;
  • Outside the home, parolees who have been found guilty of crimes against the person should be required to wear GPS tracking devices, an anklet that can remotely disable them, and a video camera and microphone so they can be remotely monitored and disciplined if need be.

using electroconvulsive means, and a video camera, microphone and earpiece, so they can be remotely monitored and disabled if they attack anyone or persist in breaching their parole.
Parolees should be required to make all purchases using cards rather than cash. All accounts should be hooked up to pattern recognition software to verify adherence to the parolee’s budget. This also prevents parolees from buying alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, prostitutes or other contraband. Bank account records can also be compared against the tracking device logs to ensure they correlate.

Parolees should be formed into committees which examine and report on other parolees’ behavior. The parolee they supervise should not be on their own committee. The committees should meet weekly and have access to the parolee’s bank account and salary records; tracking device logs; video recordings inside their home; complaints from employers; and the like. If a parolee under the committee’s charge re-offends in circumstances where the committee should have picked up on the problem, the committee members should be re-imprisoned for a deemed breach of their own parole. This will ensure their rapt attention to their duties and a distinct preference for the interests of society, rather than the parolee they are supervising, when deciding whether to report a possible breach.

This article is an extract from the book ‘Principles of Good Government’ by Matthew Bransgrove