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Recidivism

ABC released an article following the story of a convicted man, Micah Turner, and his hopes to reduce recidivism. He was convicted of three charges of manslaughter of his daughter, son and brother-in-law in after rolling his car. He originally was only sentenced to ten years’ probation with two years of house arrest, but then served eight years in prison after breaking his probation. He eventually came to terms with himself and what he had done while being incarcerated. He had a lot of time to reflect and when he was released realized how hard it is to return to society.

From his experience, He said the prison facility gives you a bus ticket and $50 upon release but offer no other programs or help once inmates are released. It makes life very difficult for individuals and leads to higher rates of recidivism. According to the Florida Department of Corrections, one-third of inmates released return to Florida prisons within five years of their prison release date. In order to help fight this number and offer assistance to inmates being released from prison, Turner came up with a solution.

Turner and his wife started collecting items such as  clothing and toiletries to give to men and women when they get out of prison. They create small care packages for people to help their transition back into society. With these packages people have a better chance of providing for themselves leading to less recidivism. They are hoping to continue to be able to provide for those and help rehabilitate former inmates into society.

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Community Supervision

The term parole has had a long-standing pessimistic view from people as many believe that individuals serving parole will reoffend. They also have the stigma that every criminal is violent and that people on parole should not be released as they are dangerous or criminal. According to an article by the Justice Center, The Council of State Governments, “with data to back them up, some states have started to challenge that way of thinking and turn pessimistic parole into “presumptive parole.”

For example, Vermont recently passed legislation that requires a growing approach in state corrections systems related to parole. They are using a form of reverse psychology where they assume parole-eligible people should be released unless there is a good reason not to. The reasoning behind this leads others that are incarcerated to participate in and finish required programming so that they are eligible for parole. Vermont’s legislation requires people to meet their minimum sentence requirement and key criteria related to good behavior while incarcerated, and then reviews parole candidates within 30 days of the individuals parole eligibility date.

For now, there are two stages of presumptive parole, first in 2021 where parole for people convicted of nonviolent offenses is established and then in 2023 parole will expand to include more types of eligible offenses. Vermont is just one of a few states that has been changing parole policies and redefining it to improve public safety, reduce corrections spending and reinvest in strategies to reduce recidivism. It is a step in the right direction regarding justice reform and helping individuals be less stigmatized when released. Most individuals on parole are working very hard to change their lives around and take advantage of their second chance. 

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Justice Reform

Many individuals sitting in jail waiting for trial are simply there because they cannot afford to post bail. It is an issue statewide that many struggle with, as the United States is the only country that uses a cash bail system. Currently, there are more than 470,000 pretrial detainees simply because they cannot afford to post bail, according to the Prison Policy Initiative. “The median bail amount for felonies is $10,000, which represents 8 months of income for a typical person detained”, according to the Prison Policy Initiative. These individuals have not been convicted of a crime but are still sitting in jail, which is unfair to those who cannot afford it. Those who can are comfortably at home awaiting their trial.

An article was published about how one attorney for Chittenden County State, Attorney Sarah George, has not been requesting cash bail in pretrial cases since January. She believes it is unjust that some people are in jail only because they cannot afford bail. She is making a difference for those who cannot post bail by not requiring it, allowing less people to sit in jail while they await trial. “And that’s, you know, losing their jobs and losing their housing and potentially losing their kids and disrupting the stability of relationships within their community”, says Sarah George. Currently, Vermont allows individuals to post bail with 10% of the bail amount paid but even then, many struggle to come up with these funds. The system spends more on keeping individuals on pretrial than the cash bail system brings in.

States are starting to recognize the difficulty that a cash bail system has on individuals and have reduced the use of cash bail. It tears families apart and makes a difficult time even more challenging. All individuals deserve the same right and fair access to not sit in jail while awaiting pretrial and the diminishing of using a cash bail system is one step in this positive direction. 

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