Some of the country’s leading practitioners and policymakers on corrections will sit down with formerly incarcerated individuals this month to explore new ideas for reform. The Harry Frank Guggenheim Symposium, meeting at John Jay College Feb. 20-21, features keynote speakers Leann Bertsch, head of North Dakota’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, and former New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey, chair of the New Jersey Reentry Commission.
Twenty-five years after the state eliminated the practice of releasing prisoners who had served part of their sentence, thousands of inmates could be eligible to get out under bills progressing through the Democratically controlled General Assembly.
Even as New York politicians wrangle over efforts to water down the state’s historic new bail reform law, some politicians are pushing for even more fundamental reforms. A bill introduced by state Sen. Gustavo Rivera would require parole boards to evaluate an inmate’s “growth”—a measure he says would especially benefit elderly prisoners.
By abandoning the approach of putting people on probation under the constant fear of incarceration, New York has enabled 80 percent of people to complete probation successfully, compared with 49 percent in Philadelphia.
People who are returning from prison face a gauntlet of challenges. Two experts on incarceration reform ask: Why do we make things more difficult for them by making them subject to technical violations that have little to do with public safety?
A “courthouse culture” has kept African Americans in Philadelphia on probation at a rate 54 percent higher than whites, the Philadelphia Inquirer says in a new series. The findings, which underline a system that sends many individuals back to prison on technical violations — most famously the rapper Meek Mill — confirm nationwide criticism of the community supervision system as a major driver of mass incarceration.
Parole numbers in Alabama’s overcrowded prisons have plummeted since a triple-murder last year by a parolee. Now the new parole chief has suspended all parole and pardons hearings, blaming a new victim-notification law.
The nation’s flawed community supervision system operates like a revolving door, ordering individuals back to prison for violations as minor as a missed meeting with a probation officer, according to the Council of State Governments Justice Center, in a report advocates say is a “wake-up call” for reform.