Imposing a moratorium on parole/prison releases has been utilized as a "corrective" solution by the executive branch in reaction to high-profile homicides. Most recently, for example, the Governor of Alabama imposed a moratorium on the state's parole, following the murder of a family by a recently released parolee. In September 2008 in Pennsylvania, the then-Governor, Edward Rendell, imposed a statewide moratorium on all parole releases, immediately following a high-profile homicide of a police officer in Philadelphia by a recently released parolee. At the time this moratorium was imposed, the Governor also called for an independent inquiry into the state's parole and correctional processes conditioning the lifting of the moratorium on the findings of this investigation. This important research was conducted by members of Temple University's Department of Criminal Justice with the final report released in March 2010, with two intermediate reports issued in late 2008 (see Goldkamp et al., 2010). Unexpectedly, during the review period, the research team tasked with conducting this independent research received an unsolicited corpus of 159 letters from people in prisons across the state and their families. As these letters had not been anticipated, and were not part of the original research plan, they were not analyzed during that investigation; however, they were saved by the original research team, who deemed them valuable for understanding the moratorium from the lived experiences of incarcerated people—and later passed them on to the research team conducting the present study.

With funding from Liberal Arts Undergraduate Research Award (LAURA) and College of Liberal Arts Research Award (CLARA), a diverse Temple University Department of Criminal Justice research team consisting of current graduate student Steven Chen, then-undergraduate students Makayla Maynard and Cadee Eberhardt, and current faculty Drs. Rely Vîlcică and Jeffrey T. Ward and UX Researcher Dr. Ajima Olaghere took advantage of this unique opportunity to study the consequences of a key instantiation of policy shock to the criminal legal system through the lenses of incarcerated persons as documented in their writings. Specifically, researchers digitized and analyzed 159 unsolicited letters from incarcerated individuals in the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections written during PA's 2008-2009 Moratorium on prison releases. Findings highlight that the moratorium eroded incarcerated persons' trust and exacerbated an already existing crisis in procedural justice and legitimacy for discretionary parole, underscoring both direct and collateral consequences of this policy shock on the lived experiences of those most directly affected and their families. For examples, in the words of one letter writer: "I have a job lined up, strong family support, parents that loves me, a fiancee and 8 year of daughter that misses and loves me just as I love them. It's like hell to have to tell my daughter that I'm not sure if I'll be home." A more general, holistic view of parole was offered by another letter writer: "…after one has achieved each and every element the D. O. C. set forth they go before the parole board only to be rejected time and time again while they continue to be rejected family members die, wives leave and the person being rejected by the parole board becomes bitter, soon the person you know who has been doing all the right things and making positive changes began to give up hope on life. You see this person become dispirited."

The voices of more than 100 incarcerated persons that can be heard in the wake of hasty and far-reaching policy shocks serve as an important reminder of the unintended consequences that these types of decisions can have for perceptions of legitimacy, reentry and reintegration, and personal wellbeing. The full Chen et al. (2024) study (Legitimacy of parole as a consequence of policy shock: The lived experiences of incarcerated persons during the parole moratorium in Pennsylvania, U.S.) is published online first in Law & Policy and provides a nice complement to prior work in the department on the moratorium conducted by Dr. Vîlcică (2016a; 2016b).