End the Parole-Prison ‘Revolving Door’, says former NY Chief Judge

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Illustration by Natasha Mayers via Flickr

Authorities should put “hard limits” on the degree to which people can be imprisoned for technical violations, and use the cost saving to invest in housing, job opportunities and other services to help reduce recidivism, says former  New York Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman.

The approach that has already sharply reduced recidivism in traditionally punitive “red” states such as Oklahoma, Mississippi and Louisiana, Lippman wrote in an op ed for the New York Daily News, co-authored with Vincent Schiraldi, co-director of the Columbia Univwersity Justice Lab.

After Louisiana limited punishments for parole violations, recidivism dropped by 22 percent, and the state saved $17 million per year in correctional costs, the authors said.

“Instead of paving the way for people to come home, parole has become a revolving door back to incarceration,” they wrote in a call for New York State to follow suit.

Noting that community supervision after prison has “become one of biggest drivers of jail and prison populations in New York State,” the authors cited “dismal” statistics showing that  30 percent of those sent to state prison are there “for breaching parole restrictions,” not for new criminal convictions.

“Most of them are imprisoned for non-criminal “technical” violations, such as missing an appointment or failing a drug test,” the article said.

The op ed said a first step in the process is to allow people to earn “good-time credits” for good behavior, thus reducing their time on parole.

Such a move would “not only incentivize success, but also shrink the number of people under supervision,” the authors said.

The resulting cost  savings from a lower prison population should be used to facilitate more “access to housing, job opportunities, health care, substance abuse treatment and other services,” they said.

See also: Do We Really Need Probation and Parole?

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