Careful When You Come Up For Parole

Parole boards are supposed to objectively assess whether inmates eligible for parole deserve to be released from prison before the end of their sentence. They need to determine whether people are reformed, whether they have been behaving themselves in prison, and whether they pose unacceptable risks to society. But it turns out their decisions may be influenced by whether they need a snack break or a trip to the restroom. Here’s a wonderful graph from the University of Stirling website, showing that parole board officers are much more likely to be lenient early in each of their work sessions, while getting more stringent all the way up to their next work break:

Danziger, Levav & Avnaim-Pesso (2011) Extraneous factors in judicial decisions.

So much for objective decision-making!

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