A coalition of more than sixty probation and parole executives and associations has launched a national initiative aimed at reducing the number of men and women under community supervision and making the parole system less punitive and more equitable, restorative, and hopeful.
Supported by the Columbia University Justice Lab, with funding from Arnold Ventures, Galaxy Gives, and the Tikkun Olam Foundation, the initiative, EXiT: Executives Transforming Probation & Parole, is designed to assist the efforts of executives, policy makers, and advocates to substantially reduce the under-supervision population and target resources currently dedicated to probation and parole more effectively. To that end, EXiT will provide targeted, rapid-response technical assistance; testimony at hearings and public convenings; public messaging and communications; and thought leadership around the development and dissemination of policies and practices.
In a Statement on the Future of Probation & Parole in the United States (4 pages, PDF), the initiative notes that 4.5 million people are currently on probation or parole across the United States — nearly four times as many as in 1980; that 45 percent of the incarcerated population were on probation or parole when they entered incarceration; and that the system disproportionately affects African Americans, one in twenty-three of whom are under community supervision.
To return probation and parole to their original purpose of helping men and women stay in or return to their communities, EXiT recommends tailoring the conditions of supervision to the individual's offense and needs, establishing reasonable terms of no longer than eighteen months, and eliminating supervision fees. To reduce the population under supervision, the initiative calls for prioritizing diversion, supports, and services; eliminating re-incarceration for technical violations and low-level new offenses; and eradicating racial disparities in supervision, revocations, and sentencing recommendations. And to restore hope for people under supervision, those who work in the system, and the communities where they live, EXiT recommends allowing those on probation to earn time off through good behavior and achievement of educational or employment milestones; reinvesting budget savings into smaller caseloads, evidence-based practices, and enhanced services and supports; listening to and accepting community members, families, and justice-involved individuals as equal partners in system reform while supporting probation and parole staff; and addressing statutory restrictions on voting rights, driving privileges, and access to college funding and safe housing.
"Community supervision is the largest and most ignored part of America's criminal justice system," said Vincent Schiraldi, co-chair of EXiT's steering committee, co-director of the Columbia University Justice Lab, and a former commissioner of the New York City Department of Probation. "Mass supervision as it is currently constituted must end. It is time to return to our rehabilitative roots, rightsize probation and parole, and restore hope and help."
In addition to the steering committee members, signatories to the EXiT statement include the American Probation and Parole Association, the Association of State Correctional Administrators, the Association of Women Executives in Corrections, the International Community Corrections Association, and the National Association of Probation Executives, as well as current and former probation and parole executives.
"Survivors of crime know that fair and effective parole and probation practices work better to stop the cycle of crime. This is good for public safety," said Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice California director Tinisch Hollis. "Today we are proud to stand with parole and probation chiefs from across the country in calling for new solutions for stopping the revolving door. We want safety first. The old approaches don't deliver."