In Arizona, the number of felons on parole, called community supervision, has more than doubled in the past 16 years. An Arizona Republic analysis found that nearly 5,000 ex-convicts are living in virtually every ZIP code in the Phoenix area. the Republic linked to a database of parolee locations. Prison officials also overhauling pre-release preparation and have launched a pilot program to ease the transition for at least some of those coming out of prison. The programs already are showing promise, with early recidivism rates lower than state and national averages. “Focusing on the sentence alone does not give our state all of the protection it deserves,” said Dora Schriro, state corrections director. “The sentence is a finite period of time, and then it’s over. And when it’s over, they come home. The question we should ask is: How do we want them? You don’t just want them not committing new crimes. You want them civil and productive.”
Debbie Mukamal, director of the Prisoner Re-entry Institute at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said inmates typically leave prison with physical and mental-health issues and substance-abuse problems that need to be addressed. Three Arizona initiatives show early signs of success. In one, parole officers partner with other state agencies to provide easier access to resources, housing, and health care. Of 57 inmates who have started with the pilot program, four successfully completed community supervision, and four have had their parole revoked.