Early release from prison is not as simple as the words early and release might suggest. Historical analysis of prison release policies and practices yields a wealth of penal thinking that dates back nearly 140 years. Part of the difficulty in discussing early release stems from the variety of types of release and the legal, political, and social contexts surrounding release decisions. Early release—also commonly called controlled release, conditional release, and/or discretionary release—is the discharge of a prison or jail inmate prior to the end of their legally imposed sentence. This includes (1) compassionate release, for terminally ill inmates who generally cannot care for themselves any longer; (2) parole or probation, which is discretionary or mandatory release to a period of post-incarceration ...