Parole, Probation, & Mass Incarceration

November 3, 2020

The Prison Policy Initiative (PPI) publishes timely essays, reports, and briefings on a whole host of issues facing U.S. prisons and jails. Last week (October 28), PPI published an eye opening report on how parole violations is an important factor in increasing the prison population. PPI did an analysis of parole and probation in the District of Columbia to show just how parole and supervision violations can cause a returning citizen to go back to prison.  Returning citizens who are being supervised because they are on parole or probation can be sent back to prison for violating anyone of these rules:

Burdensome conditions of release

In D.C., people under supervision can get a technical violation for behaviors such as:

  1. Not reporting to their CSO
  2. Not allowing a CSO to visit their home
  3. Leaving the “judicial district” without permission
  4. Not working regularly
  5. Not attending training, school, or drug treatment
  6. Not notifying their CSO of a change of address or employment
  7. Going to places where illegal substances are sold, used, stored, or administered
  8. Associating others who are “engaged in criminal activity” or have felony convictions
  9. Not notifying, within 2 days, their CSO of a new arrest or mere questioning by police
  10. Acting as an informant or special agent for law enforcement without permission
  11. Not adhering to any other general or special conditions, like curfew or GPS monitoring
  12. Not submitting a sample for drug testing
  13. Not paying fees that are a condition of release

According to the PPI report, 1 and 7 held in the DC Jail are due to violations for one or more of the above rules.  According to PPI, "Nationally, 45% of annual prison admissions are due to supervision violations, and 25% are the result of “technical violations” — noncompliant but non-criminal behaviors, like missing meetings with a parole officer. The sheer number of people held in jail for mere violations of supervision exemplifies the gross overuse and misuse of incarceration in the U.S."

The PPI report reveals why bringing parole back under local control of the DC government is so important. Currently, parole is supervised by the U.S. Parole Commission and the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency of the District of Columbia, otherwise known as CSOSA.  By bringing parole back under the authority of the DC government, advocates and activists hope to have a hand in creating a Parole Board in the District whose focus will be on rehabilitation, providing medical and psychological care for those who are in need, and supporting returning citizens to return to the community.  We are working on a Parole Commission that will not set up returning citizens for failure by being overly punitive for violation of technical or supervisory rules. Click here to read the PPI Report, Technical difficulties: D.C. data shows how minor supervision violations contribute to excessive jailing.


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