Vincent Schiraldi’s new book Mass Supervision calls for the need to end probation and parole as known today, Slate reports. Schiraldi was once the probation commissioner of New York City and spent time there supporting advocacy and community organizations that diverted people from the criminal system. He calls his aspiration “incremental abolition.” However, it’s a tall order, as probation and parole are entrenched in all 50 states. But Schiraldi still says that probation and parole aren’t working, saying they’re “net wideners,” expanding the number of people who are subject to surveillance and carceral control on top of those already caught in our system of mass incarceration. In Mass Supervision, Schiraldi says that “a major foundation” has approached him with funding to find a willing jurisdiction to explore what he calls “a thoughtful experiment” in abolishing probation and parole.
The replacement of probation and parole includes getting buy-in from elected officials, nonprofit organizations, and the advocacy community, which was the “backbone” of the experiment that made New York City a model. The plan also proposes spending at least some of the savings on impacted communities and proposes analyzing and following the data from this new approach. In this vision, incremental abolition sounds a lot like growing the state in other ways, with think tanks and nonprofits and officers with lower caseloads helping to build capacity in the community. Yet Schiraldi’s vision lacks clarity about what those with power inside and outside the supervision bureaucracy will do to get on board with this overhaul of probation and parole. As for those with the power to change things, Schiraldi urges them to be courageous, hear from those supervision harms most, and begin experimenting with how to bring what he says is an alternative form of punishment to an end.