Isaac Fulwood Jr., a member of the U.S. Parole Commission, braces for explanations from Washington, D.C., parolees who have broken the rules, missing appointments and curfews and testing positive for drug and alcohol use. These “technical violations” get about 1,000 D.C. felons sent back to prison annually, for at least an extra year, says the Washington Post. Fulwood’s reprimand sanction hearings are an opportunity to follow the rules rather than return to prison.
The job alternately saddens and angers him. Fulwood rues that most are black, like him, and that the men waste away behind bars as their children, wives and girlfriends fend for themselves. As a police officer with 29 years behind the badge, he tolerates no nonsense: Do right and stay free, or act a fool and get locked up. The capital city has 15,000 offenders living under conditions of parole or probation: confined to home detention, tethered to GPS, in training classes or drug treatment, or required to check in regularly. When things go wrong, someone must decide how to fix it. The typical response is a trip back to prison, but states and the District are increasingly opting for cheaper alternatives, such as day- or week-long sentences. States spent $49 billion last year on corrections and want to preserve prison space for hardened criminals, says the Pew Center on the States.