Monday, May 19, 2008

Trail 'Em, Nail 'Em, Jail 'Em: An Alternative

Maybe the "get tough" mania from the 1980's and 90's is finally abating, this time in the area of parole, the much maligned but absolutely necessary correctional function which went from its ancient roots in social-service orientation (or helping the inmate transition back to the community), to the "trail 'em, nail 'em and jail 'em," pee in a cup, law-enforcement orientation of the past few decades.

As part of a get-tough spirit, a number of states in recent decades adopted mandatory sentences and ended the historic discretion of parole boards over release dates. Yet every state still has post-release supervision for most offenders, averaging three years with stiff conditions like not consuming alcohol, having urine tests, abiding by curfews, holding a job and meeting regularly with a parole officer.

It has been prompted in part by financial concerns: more than one-third of all prison admissions are for parole violations, helping to drive an unsustainable surge in prison-building.
In fact, when you throw in probation violations, anywhere from half to two-thirds of all prison admissions annually in the U.S. are for such "crimes" like losing your job, getting a traffic ticket, or missing an appointment.
In a sharp break with tradition, [in Kansas] and in some other states, parole agencies are hiring officers with backgrounds in social work rather than law enforcement. Parole officers are partnering with re-entry case workers who help prepare prisoners for society with group therapy and housing and job assistance. They start meeting prisoners well before their release, visit their families and may even drive them to a job interview.

The reformers are seeking a deeper change in attitude as well. “We’ve rewritten all our job descriptions,” said Roger Werholtz, the Kansas secretary of corrections. “The idea is to work with offenders to prevent them from violating their conditions of release, rather than just monitoring them to see if violations occur.”
Turning people loose and waiting for them to screw up was hardly a sane policy to begin with. Maybe we are seeing a return to the historical roots of parole and what its founder, Alexander Maconochie dubbed, "the desire to prepare prisoners for a return to society by progressive measures of discipline and self-discipline."

1 comment:

martinrmsg said...

Interesting! That logo was created a long time ago by 5 MP's......