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Parole violations are driving prison’s revolving door

[Richmond Times-Dispatch]

(The Conversation is an independent and nonprofit source of news, analysis and commentary from academic experts.)

Shawn D. Bushway, University at Albany, State University of New York and David J. Harding, University of California, Berkeley

(THE CONVERSATION) Rapper Meek Mill is back in prison in Pennsylvania for violating the terms of his probation.

According to officials, Mill left the state without permission, did not meet with his probation officer, tested positive for Percocet, failed to complete community service and got into a fight at an airport.

Mill’s case has drawn new attention to how probation and parole violations contribute to extremely high rates of incarceration in the United States. These high rates of incarceration are in part driven by reimprisonment of formerly incarcerated individuals, known as recidivism. More than half of people who are released from prison in a given year in the United States will return within five years, a phenomenon that has come to be known as prison’s “revolving door.”

Reducing the prison population requires a deeper understanding of what drives the revolving door. The results of our recently published study show how parole, even more than probation, plays a key role.


Read more


Join the discussion

  1. Peter

    Does anyone take the registry seriously these days with the avalanche of people being accused daily of this stuff on the internet? I think they will be forced to “qualify” only serious offenses soon from a practical standpoint.

    • Josh james

      Yes, it is taken seriously. Don’t jeopardize yourself into thinking otherwise. The authorities will lock you up and forget about you.

  2. American Detained in America

    That whole revolving door issue is old news…any of us who have ever been inmates already knows that .

  3. Tim Moore

    “preventing future involvement in the criminal justice system.” Hallelujah, this should be the goal of our institutions. The practice is to make every law one can think of to trip the registrant and make him fall into prison.

    • CR

      Yes, the practice is as you said. Rehabilitation is not the goal. The laws are designed to trip us up and land us back in prison. It is driven by the public’s fear and hatred of us, fanned by legislators seeking re-election and media seeking higher ratings, and supported by the lie that sex offenders cannot be rehabilitated, and exhibit “frightening and high” recidivism.

      • Josh james

        The laws are made to create justice for the victims of your crime. They have absolutely no intent to rehabilitate you or lessen your likelihood to reoffend. I am not trying to troll here, I just want a clear understanding of why the laws are the way they are.

        • Alec

          That’s a very interesting (and true) point. It is worth mentioning that that type of thinking is very recent; in earlier periods of history it would not have been considered acceptable to burn down civilization in order to save it. I believe these people don’t realize that is what they are doing. To me, it all represents a lack of faith – in the future, in themselves, in their ideals, in their ability to teach future generations. The means, in fact, make the ends; and we must decide very carefully if the Zero Approval Gambit is worth it.

          Now, because we have fallen subject to that thinking, it may be the only way forward… that the only way to save civilization is to burn it down.

        • CR

          Yet it seems like you are trolling, Josh.

          It could be said of laws that mandate restitution that their purpose is to “create justice” or attempt to restore or compensate victims for offenses against them. They constitute an infinitesimal percentage of all laws. And they are not the ones that create the revolving door to prison.

          Broadly, laws are civil or criminal in nature. They differ in many respects, particularly in the type of conduct they apply to, the type of penalties associated, the intent or mindset of the violator, the burden of proof required in court, etc. Criminal laws have criminal penalties. Civil laws (regulatory laws) may have either civil or criminal penalties.

          The kind of laws that we are talking about here, the ones that drive the “prison’s revolving doors” mentioned in the article, are designated by the legislature as regulatory in nature, with supposedly no punitive intent, yet they have criminal penalties attached that inflict punishment, often severe. The penalties are frequently grossly out of proportion to the nature of the violation.

          Such laws claim public safety as a rationale, yet the only justification cited for them are lies about “frightening and high” sex offender recidivism, and bare assertions with no proof that former sex offenders pose a greater risk to the public than non-offenders or other non-sexual offenders. No reliable studies or other proof of the public safety effectiveness of these laws has ever been presented in court when they are challenged.

          Get over your emotional response for a bit, and take an honest look at the “regulatory” laws that released former sex offenders are subject to, and perhaps you’ll begin to see that their actual effect, if not their purported legislative purpose, is to make life as hard as possible for a former sex offender, and to impede his or her rehabilitation and reintegration into society.

  4. Tim Moore

    The true value of a good lawyer is her ability know the system and to pick judges which tend to give probation rather than prison and to pick venues where there won’t be cameras in the courtroom, and hence your name and face won’t be front page on the internet forever. It could save your life. I don’t know if the system as a whole will ever be able to base sentencing on empirical evidence, the focus of politicians is not about preventing crime but on beating up criminals. They think it is the same thing, and they gets more likes for the violence not the pragmatism.

  5. Bill

    It used to be the CDC made a hundred grand on each inmate per year from the federal government, so it was easier to violate people on parole on a whim and collect money.

  6. Michael

    Pack Mentality [aka, herd behavior].

    C’mon! Dude did not meet with his probation officer, was taking drugs, failed to complete court ordered community service, and was catching new cases.

    All that being said. Does anyone other than me think pack mentality [aka, herd behavior] is responsible for the prison population? I’m not necessarily talking about the people who end up in prison, but society in general. I think the 2016 election is a perfect example of how pack mentality drives the opinions of people. Trump said that violence was good for his campaign which, in his little mind, justified saying things like, “I’d like to punch him in the face,” and then later his supporters are seen assaulting protesters in the crowd. I’m talking about this mentality in relation to second chances and social forgiveness. It’s hard to get a job in America as a felon because everyone feels they have a right to know everything about you in order to get a job [private sector discrimination]. We go as far as to pass laws that impose lifetime restrictions on welfare and food stamp benefits for anyone convicted of a state or federal drug felony, and other felony disenfranchisement laws.

    IMO, there are two packs, those who think we need to be tough on crime — the punch that guy in the face crowd — and those who are for fair sentencing and how it meets the mutual goals of punishment and rehabilitation because they believe that imposing additional punishment after a criminal conviction is not only vindictive, but also counterproductive. I believe it’s the reason why a parolee has a harder time when released from prison.


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