Prison Reform: Parole Merry-go-Round

Dr. Fraser’s article focuses on New York State’s parole merry-go-round, but in reality it could be any of 50 states. Ronald Fraser, Ph.D., writes on public policy issues for the DKT Liberty Project, a Washington-based civil liberties organization.  Write him at:

By Ronald Fraser PhD

State-run parole and probation programs are designed to keep persons convicted of crimes—including a very large number of non-violent crimes—out of prison.

But in New York, according to a recent Council of State Governments study, Confined and Costly: How Supervision Violations are Filling Prisons, “On any given day 10,678 people (or 22% of the 2018 New York prison population) are behind bars as a result of a parole violation, at an annual cost to the state of $815 million.”

Parole and probation are court-ordered, non-prison sentences that give offenders a chance to rebuild their lives in a community setting. Not a get-out-of-jail-free-card, each offender agrees to follow a strictly supervised list of conditions that commonly includes mandatory drug testing, keeping regular parole officer visits, paying fines and restitution, holding a job and drug rehab and anger management classes.

More restrictive conditions may include searches, prior approval to open a checking account, travel restrictions, electronic monitoring, curfews and off-limit establishments.

Each year about one-quarter of all persons under community supervision successfully complete the terms of their parole and probation and are released.

What about the others, many of whom struggle with a mental illness or addiction, low education attainment, poor employment skills and their inability to pay for drug testing or administrative and electronic monitoring fees.  (Yes, many parolees are required to pay these fees themselves.)

For them, repeated violations of even relatively minor rules can lead to a disciplinary hearing, additional restrictions or a ride on the probation & parole-to-prison merry-go-round.

In fact, the Council of State Government’s report found that 41% of all persons admitted to New York prisons in 2017 were placed behind bars for parole violations, including conviction of new offences.

But sooner or later these back-to-prison inmates will return on parole once again with a new set of supervised restrictions to deal with.

The size of New York’s merry-go-round is staggering.  For the years 2014-2017, according to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, prison admissions totaled 83,741.  During this four-year period it is likely that as many as 30,000 men and women (36% x 83,741) were returned to prison not for breaking any law but for violating their technical parole rules.

If New York’s parole program had worked as intended during 2014-2017, thousands of offenders would not have been locked behind bars but would have remained under community supervision—where they could work on putting their lives back together.   That would have dramatically lowered the state’s prison population and saved New York taxpayers about $33,000 a year for each inmate remaining out of prison. How might this happen?

A 2018 report from the PEW Charitable Trusts titled “Probation and Parole Systems Marked by High Stakes, Missed Opportunities, found that one in 55 adults nationally—and one of every 109 New York adults—are on probation or parole. The report also found that many states are already working to strengthen the effectiveness of their probation and parole programs.

“Policymakers across the nation,” the authors write, “are adopting reforms, such as shorter supervision terms and earned compliance credits, and to prioritize supervision and treatment resources for higher-risk individuals while removing lower-risk people from supervision caseloads.”

In practice this requires that states “Fundamentally change the purpose of supervision from punishing failure to promoting success. The goal should be to help people repair the harm they have caused and become self-sufficient, law-abiding citizens, rather than simply enforcing rules set by courts and parole boards, catching violators and imposing penalties, including incarceration.”

As these reforms are put into practice prison populations will go down, state taxes will go down and, best of all, thousands of New Yorkers will stand a better chance of putting prison life behind them for good.

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3 years ago

Just wanted to backup my previous comments, for Frank’s benefit and other assholes like him.

Here’s an article explaining how racist Trudeau is —- by GOING BACK ON HIS PROMISE to welcome immigrants crossing over from the US:

Most of the immigrants crossing over from the US to Canada were Haitians seeking permanent asylum in Canada, but many were also African refugees (from war torn countries in Africa) who were given temporary asylum in the US, but who are seeking to cross into Canada for permanent asylum, which Trudeau is now seeking to block.

I had read somewhere that Trudeau would not be opposed to using soldiers to block the border, if need be, but I’m too lazy to find that article right now. But even if he never used the military, he’s still being RACIST by blocking immigrants from coming into Canada.

Flowers should be ASHAMED of that type of racism.

Flowers is part of a racist regime.

…Especially when it was Flowers who claimed that Trump is immoral for using ICE to enforce our own laws.

Flowers is a hypocrite and a gaslighted cat lady. The RCMP’s Vancouver office has orders to hang up on her if she ever phones them again. They are tired of her phony reports about fictitious criminals.

Have a nice day.

3 years ago

You are a Parole Officer supervising 50 to 60 people that are addicts. All of them have court ordered stipulations to “Attend and successfully complete drug and alcohol programming as deemed necessary on a drug and alcohol evaluation”. Another stipulation is “seek and maintain employment”. Now, keep this statistic in mind-20% success rate from drug rehabilitation (that is being generous, depending upon which stats you are looking at).

Offender A was just released from jail. A also just completed a 3 week inpatient program. He is recommended to attend weekly outpatient meetings. You go to Offender A’s home and he is not there. You try again next week, but again he is not there. You finally visit him the following week, but you discover that he has relapsed to heroin use. You take him in custody, but divert him to another inpatient program. This time, A successfully completes a 3 month program.

Now, you go to visit A, and he seems to be doing well. He is looking for a job. You get him to a career link or job service. Next week you visit A, but again, he has relapsed. However, you get notified that A was also arrested retail theft, because he needed to support his addiction. So now there are criminal charges on him. So you now take him back to jail, because he seems to be relapsing to the very criminality that got him arrested in the first place. Should you eventually take A to jail, or keep allowing him to relapse?

We talk about treating drug/alcohol addiction, but it’s not that simple. Once a person relapses, it’s not just a matter of them using drugs/alcohol. It then becomes a matter of them supporting their habit, which leads to Retail Theft, Burglary, Receiving Stolen Property, etc. At worse, it may lead to Assault or Robbery. Is it fair to the local store owner that A keeps stealing stuff out of his store every time A relapses? Store owner pays taxes, and that Probation Officer isn’t doing anything to protect his business.

Keep in mind, you have 50 parolees on your caseload. Remember that statistic of 20% success rate? That means that 40 of those folks you are supervising are in this cycle of addiction.

It’s a fine line that a Probation Officer is forced to walk. He/She has to treat the offender by getting them into a treatment program, but they also have to protect the community by taking that offender off the street at the right time. It’s easy for politicians and those highly educated people to point their fingers at these statistics, but I beg to differ. PO’s are diverting people to treatment, but eventually, the cycle just keeps repeating itself. How many addicts are able to hold jobs for long periods of time? Especially considering heroin and meth, they ultimately resort to committing crimes to support their addictions. Legalize it? You still need money to buy it legally. Where do you get money when you can’t hold a job, and you sold everything you own?

We need to look at several factors of our very own culture. Our kids glorify rappers who have done time in prison. We lift up MMA fighters who beat the living daylights out of each other. Unfortunately, there are too many inner city kids who have been groomed that “you’re not a real man until you’ve done time”. The talent that is wasted is horrible, but nobody wants to differentiate right from wrong anymore. If you say that something is wrong, you are derided as being “judgmental” or insensitive. A father proud that his teenage son impregnated a teenage girl? Don’t say anything, because you never walked in their shoes. “I don’t want my kid to turn out the way I did”, but that same person refuses to help his 9 year old with homework.

The cycle of addiction and criminality needs to be solved at home. People need to take responsibility, which means cleaning themselves up from their own addictions. Responsibility is the main concept. If people would take responsibility for their own lives and the lives that they create, these problems wouldn’t be as profound. But that means that this “politically correct” culture needs to be checked. Sometimes being told that you are coming up short is a good motivator to change. Who wants to be the weakest link in a chain? But if we constantly make excuses for that weak link, and allow that weak link to be weak; it’ll never get stronger.

Even if you’re not religious, the 10 Commandments aren’t a bad way to live. Just sayin’

3 years ago

A Bernie Sanders campaign aide says that the Gulags were wonderful.
The prisoners were singing and dancing and enjoying conjugal visits.
It seems America is already halfway to recreating Russia’s Gulag Archipelago.
Vote for Moscow Bernie!
Vote for Communism!
Long Live the Proletariat!

Sanders Campaign Organizer: Free Education, Gulags Needed To “Re-Educate” You To Not Be A “F*cking Nazi”
James O’Keefe
BREAKING: @BernieSanders “free education” policies to “teach you how to not be a f**king nazi.”; ‘There is a reason Stalin had Gulags’; ‘Expect violent reaction’ for speech. If Bernie doesn’t get nomination “Milwaukee will burn”

A campaign organizer for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders warned about mass violence and advocated for the use of gulags for “re-education” in a conversation caught on tape by James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas. In the undercover video, Kyle Jurek, an Iowa field organizer for the Sanders campaign, said the country will have to “spend billions” on re-education for people that are “Nazified.”

Jurek suggested the use of gulags for “re-education” of Trump supporters and praised political labor camps. He said gulags have been misunderstood and were actually “a lot better” than described, noting people were paid “a living wage” and allowed conjugal visits.

Nancy Durkin
Nancy Durkin
3 years ago

Excellent article. I still believe a large part of the problem is that our prison system is run largely by for-profit corporations. More incarcerated = more money for them, more jobs within the system, and more happy, happy vendors.

Imagine just how many are incarcerated for having possessed a small amount of weed for personal use. It’s disgusting.

3 years ago
Reply to  Nancy Durkin

Sorry dummy, but the average police officer on the street who makes arrests is NOT concerned with the ‘for profit’ prison system. They are only concerned with getting accolades/promotions for making more arrests. Duh.

Likewise, the prosecutors are NOT concerned with the ‘for profit’ prison system either. They are only concerned with getting their conviction rate higher, for career related accolades. Duh.

…and the judges who sentence prisoners are not concerned with the ‘for profit’ prison system either. They are only concerned with dispensing justice to each person that stands before them after being convicted by a JURY that also doesn’t care about the ‘for profit’ prison system, LOL.

Duh. Now don’t you feel stupid? 🙂

Finally, there’s very few people in prison for merely possessing a tiny amount of weed for personal use.

If only you had a brain.

Oh, and if you wanna know why the US has a higher percentage of prisoners (relative to other countries) it’s because we have a higher level of minority thugs living in close proximity to wealthier people.

Wealthy countries in Europe may have lots of wealth too, but they don’t have as many minority thugs and deadbeats as the US does, per 100,000 people.

Try this: Let Canada import our 15 million illegals along with our millions of jobless minority deadbeats in urban areas like Oakland, South Central LA and other deadbeat areas —- and then let’s see what Canada’s prison figures look like after a few years, LOL.

There’s a reason Canada (Trudeau) put armed soldiers at the border to prevent African refugees from coming across 3 years ago. It’s because they wanted to stop illegals from plundering their economy and jails. If Trump did that there’d be riots but when Trudeau does it there’s no problems.

Have a nice day. 🙂

Frank Parlato
3 years ago
Reply to  Bangkok

I imagine Bangkok’s comments is considered politically incorrect speech in some quarters. I also think a lot of people believe it and do not voice this opinion openly but do among themselves. I personally do not believe it. I do not think minorities are the problem, I think we have an incarceration nation that is profit driven to put people into prison and the poor [i.e. minorities] are the especial target of this brutal system. The same system that requires millions of Americans to be in prison, trickles down to ensuring that police are promoted, and prosecutors are promoted by putting more people in prison and more importantly keeping them there for excessive periods of time.

It is like so many hotels. You want to keep the rooms filled. It is the shame of our nation that we have the highest percentage of our people in prison in the history of the world. Even if you eliminated every minority, I would venture we are still number one in imprisoning people. And are system is completely corrupt and slanted to ensuring people are overcharged and then because of coercive plea deals – the innocent often go to prison.

I also think that much of the behavior of minorities has been criminalized by a section of the nation [the prison industry] which loves to imprison them both out of profit and race hatred. I am not accusing Bangkok of being a racist.

As “politically incorrect” as Bangkok’s statement is, I think it can be debated without being racist. As for Bangkok’s calling people stupid or dummies because they disagree with him, I think it says more about him than the people he criticizes.

Nancy Durkin
Nancy Durkin
3 years ago
Reply to  Frank Parlato

Thanks for the supplement, Frank. You are right about law enforcement and those in the court system seeking promotions and reelection based on their track records.

Even worse, minorities are much more likely to be wrongly EXECUTED, because of either prejudice or the inability of many to obtain good legal representation. This simple (proven) fact should trouble all of us – or at least those of us in possession of a soul.

About the Author

Frank Parlato is an investigative journalist.

His work has been cited in hundreds of news outlets, like The New York Times, The Daily Mail, VICE News, CBS News, Fox News, New York Post, New York Daily News, Oxygen, Rolling Stone, People Magazine, The Sun, The Times of London, CBS Inside Edition, among many others in all five continents.

His work to expose and take down NXIVM is featured in books like “Captive” by Catherine Oxenberg, “Scarred” by Sarah Edmonson, “The Program” by Toni Natalie, and “NXIVM. La Secta Que Sedujo al Poder en México” by Juan Alberto Vasquez.

Parlato has been prominently featured on HBO’s docuseries “The Vow” and was the lead investigator and coordinating producer for Investigation Discovery’s “The Lost Women of NXIVM.” Parlato was also credited in the Starz docuseries "Seduced" for saving 'slave' women from being branded and escaping the sex-slave cult known as DOS.

Additionally, Parlato’s coverage of the group OneTaste, starting in 2018, helped spark an FBI investigation, which led to indictments of two of its leaders in 2023.

Parlato appeared on the Nancy Grace Show, Beyond the Headlines with Gretchen Carlson, Dr. Oz, American Greed, Dateline NBC, and NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, where Parlato conducted the first-ever interview with Keith Raniere after his arrest. This was ironic, as many credit Parlato as one of the primary architects of his arrest and the cratering of the cult he founded.

Parlato is a consulting producer and appears in TNT's The Heiress and the Sex Cult, which premiered on May 22, 2022. Most recently, he consulted and appeared on Tubi's "Branded and Brainwashed: Inside NXIVM," which aired January, 2023.

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