Date of Conferral





Criminal Justice


Mark Stallo


This research examined the use of compassionate release policy in response to the fastest-increasing segment of the prison population- elderly offenders. Though this policy is an approach to this problem, there was little available research regarding which correctional organizations in the United States adopt compassionate release and how it is used. The purpose of this nonexperimental comparative quantitative study was to examine the use of the policy in neighboring and distant state correctional systems relative to those organizations that used the policy more frequently to determine if the leader-laggard theory of policy diffusion was an effective policy-implementation framework. The research questions were structured to determine if there was a significant difference between the use of compassionate release policy in state and federal prisons and if there was a significantly higher concentration of policy use in states directly neighboring those where the policy was used more-frequently. Data were collected from 31 state and federal correctional agencies' publicly-available records regarding compassionate release policy use. Data were analyzed using a test of differences for the first research question and independent-samples t-tests for the second research question. The results suggested that there was significantly higher use of the policy by state correctional organizations compared to the federal prison system and that there were not significant differences in policy use between neighboring and distant states of high-use policy areas. Implications for positive social change include informing prisons about processes that may assist in reducing organizational costs and increase safety of elderly offenders, correctional workers, stakeholders, and community members/taxpayers.