Arizona parole and probation officials are focusing on one ZIP code in the Phoenix area area to help stop the cycle of incarceration and slow soaring criminal-justice costs. The Arizona Republic reports that they decided to revisit the old parole rules and find ways to change lives. “Once you realize that a lot of people come back to a certain place, then every traditional rule about community supervision has to be challenged, and many we flat-out tossed away,” said state corrections director Dora Schriro. “It is not about us making it easier. It is about us getting smarter about what is necessary to succeed on supervision.”
The Legacy Project, a pilot program in Phoenix’s 85041 ZIP code area, changes the way that parole officers supervise recently released prisoners. A similar initiative, Maricopa County’s 85041 Project, has changed how people are supervised while on probation. The programs, similar to those in several other states, move community supervision away from the zero-tolerance approach of recent years – when missed parole meetings, poor work habits or socializing with other former inmates could quickly land a person back behind bars. Instead, officers take a more comprehensive approach that seeks to address underlying problems, such as poverty, unemployment, substance abuse. and mental illness. While it’s too early to say whether the program will help break the cycle of crime, officials are optimistic about cutting crime and prison costs. Among the changes, parole officers team with state social workers to make it easier for ex-inmates to get services such as health insurance, unemployment or disability benefits and food stamps. Barriers that tended to frustrate former inmates have been lifted. Parole officers now meet with inmates in prison and go to their homes, instead of making parolees come to them. Rules that are difficult to follow, such as not socializing with other ex-inmates, have been softened.