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Should Probation and Parole Be Abolished If They Don't Stop Crime?

Three experts are suggesting "extensive downsizing" of probation and parole or "experimentation with its abolition." The proposals come from Evangeline Lopoo of the Square One Project, former corrections official Vincent Schiraldi and Timothy Ittner of Columbia University. Their paper, titled, "How Little Supervision Can We Have?," will be published in the Annual Review of Criminology. It is now behind a paywall. In a published abstract, the authors note that use of probation and parole has declined since its peak in 2007 but still involves 3.9 million Americans.


Originally intended as an alternative to incarceration and a means of rehabilitation for criminals, supervision often functions as a trip wire for further criminal justice system contact. Th authors questions the utility of supervision, "as research shows that, in toto, it currently provides neither diversion from incarceration nor rehabilitation." Data since 1980 show that supervision has little effect on future crime and is not a replacement for incarceration, the paper says. Case studies from California and New York City indicate that concerted efforts to reduce the scope of mass supervision can be achieved through sentencing reform, case diversion, and supervisory/legal system department policy change without increasing crime.

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