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Reports Prescribe Fixes for Parole, Probation Flaws That Incarcerate Too Many

Connecticut, like many states, desperately needs reforms to its parole and probation systems, a new report from the Prison Policy Initiative finds. And many of the solutions can be found just across the state line in New York, says PPI in a set of prescriptions that the advocacy group says could apply to the many other states that share Connecticut's problems in overly punitive, dysfunctional systems of community supervision.

As in many states, PPI found, Connecticut's "excessive consequences" for noncriminal technical violations of the conditions of parole or probation disproportionately harm racial minorities, cost the state too much money, and fail to reduce crime.

PPI calls its report "a deep dive into the policies and practices that entangle too many people in the web of ongoing supervision and cycles of imprisonment in Connecticut," where "incarceration is one mistake away" for the 30,000 people on probation. In Connecticut, three times as many people are on parole or probation as are incarcerated.

The state's probationer population dropped in sync with nationwide trends until late 2021, when it began a steady rise through 2022.

"Onerous" fees and numerous other conditions make compliance difficult, the report found. Hundreds of people in the state are arrested each month on probation violation warrants in lieu of written notices to appear in court. On the parole side, the state's overuse of "special parole," a status with more severe consequences than other forms of supervision, entangles too many in the criminal justice system, PPI's report said, and hundreds are likely held in custody pending revocation hearings even though they ultimately are not revoked.

Connecticut "could make probation and parole fairer and more effective by drawing on the principles of New York’s Less Is More law, which is based on successful reforms from other states," the report concludes. "Such reforms would have a wide-ranging positive impact by interrupting cycles of incarceration and excessive surveillance."

New York's law offers a framework that Connecticut and other states could use, PPI argues, including eliminating incarceration and automatic detention pending hearings for many noncriminal violations of supervision conditions, among other remedies. Those approaches helped New York reduce by nearly 40% the numbers of people on parole and freed nearly 2,000 people held on technical violations.

Maryland, too, is in need of parole fixes, according to another new report, this one by the Justice Policy Institute, reports the Baltimore Banner. The JPI report focuses on Maryland's criteria for releasing people on parole, a process that JPI says has grown more restrictive and disadvantaged older prisoners who are less likely to reoffend.


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