For Working Poor, Probation Brings Cascade of Trouble


As more states turn to probation and parole as a means of reducing incarceration, anecdotal examples are showing how even a supposedly light punishment like probation can severely disrupt a working-class life and weigh heavily on its prospects, reports the New York Times. Many people are struggling under the burden of an unusually strict or inappropriate probation, experts say. “There are a number of people around the country being put on probation that don't really need to be on probation,” said Carl Wicklund, executive director of the American Parole and Probation Association. “It's a bad use of resources, and it's bad for the individual.”

The Times uses the example of Donyelle Hall, arrested in Baltimore for drunken driving in 2013. She pleaded guilty in exchange for probation. But over the ensuing 18 months, she faced cascading troubles related to the probation, though she committed no new crimes. Ultimately she spent more than a month in jail because she could not afford another $2,500 to bail herself out. “If I took you and locked you up for 30 days, what would happen?” said Edward Latessa, director of the School of Criminal Justice at the University of Cincinnati. “You'd lose your job, you might lose your apartment, you end up with a criminal record. I don't help you — I give you new risk factors.”

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