California will end the key part of its effort to reform the parole system because there is no evidence the new approach is working, reports the Los Angeles Times. Starting today, parole violators will no longer be diverted into drug treatment programs, halfway houses, and home detention instead of being returned to prison, says a memo obtained by the Times. That strategy had been used by the administration of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to save money by reducing the prison population – and to improve the odds that ex-convicts would turn their lives around.
Though popular in other states, the approach has been criticized in California by crime victim advocates. Some parole agents felt pressure from supervisors to allow dangerous parole violators to avoid prison – and possibly go on to commit new crimes. Eliminating alternative sanctions as an option for parole violators will drive up the inmate population and exacerbate overcrowding in the California prison system, already nearly twice its design capacity. Criminologist Joan Petersilia of the University of California at Irvine said the move suggests the state is serious about its commitment to fund only programs that are supported by solid research. She said that in attempting to revamp how it handles parolees, California is 10 or more years behind the rest of the nation. In the 1990s, most other states – facing budget crises that forced them to cut their prison populations – began developing alternative sanctions, such as community detention, electronic monitoring, and other forms of supervision.