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Community Supervision

Transitioning back into society after prison can be hard for many as a lot can change in the world depending on how much time is spent behind bars. New technology evolves, jobs are more complicated and harder to acquire, and many face barriers economically when it comes to providing a stable lifestyle for themselves. Released individuals lack the support and resources to successfully enter society again, as there is a bare minimum of reentry programs and assistance available. 

There are currently over 2.3 million people spending some of their life incarcerated, but once released, they struggle with what comes next. The Politico published an article about five new policy ideas for fixing life after prison and the reentry system that affects so many. Individuals released from prison face huge obstacles when rebuilding their lives and many end up back in prison, as “according to one study, almost 70 percent are re-arrested within three years.” The next major criminal justice reform initiative is working to provide rehabilitative and reentry support to individuals to successfully become part of society again. COVID-19 has prompted the release of individuals in prison to help reduce overcrowding, prompting even more support for reentry initiatives.

The Politico goes into detail about the five topics that lead to new initiatives to help reduce recidivism and provide useful support and skills for life after incarceration. With reentry comes a link between recidivism and homelessness. Tackling homelessness can reduce jail overcrowding as many facilities’ populations are comprised of homeless people who steal, suffer from mental health issues or simply commit a crime to have a place to stay. Another study found that beginning reentry programs while individuals are still incarcerated can drastically decreased recidivism and sets up that individual to live a more successful life with learned skills. Additionally, educating society on criminal records and the different levels of crime classification can reduce the stigma associated with ‘having a record’. Many face barriers when it comes to applying for jobs and housing due to their past. There are high unemployment rates for previously incarcerated individuals, but this is being solved through facilities helping inmates find jobs before release. This ensures one less thing they have to do and sets them up on the right track to live a stable life. Finally, assisting in obtaining proper identification would help individuals be successful with reentry as it can be hard for many to do so. These are just the bare minimum of problems when it comes to reentry that solving would extremely benefit individuals.

There are many programs, resources and technology available for offenders and agencies to deploy. TRACKtech has created and developed an evidence-based, data-driven, mobile platform that offers comprehensive rehabilitation and compliance monitoring capabilities. Our solution enhances communication, monitors risks and provides an approach to enhance recovery and support reentry requirements within the criminal justice industry. TRACKtech solutions can help PO’s support their clients by providing behavioral health programs, reentry programs, life support skills and programs, and access to housing, education and job listings. If you have questions about how our products and services can benefit an agency, please reach out to us at sales@tracktechllc.com. There is so much to be done to make the entry to reentry process smooth and seamless for those involved in the process and we are here to help.

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Justice Reform

JDSupra published an article taking on a new perspective on the court system and how to create better criminal justice reform in the United States. They are talking about rethinking the role of prosecutors in court cases. Conventionally, prosecutors believed that long prison terms were vital to public safety. However, with the overcrowding and growing populations in prisons this needs to be rethought and challenged. The punitive model that is employed in courts is not helping anyone rehabilitate or proving to be successful. It simply leads to recidivism, a great expense and mass incarceration rates in the United States.

At a panel discussion, Lucy Lang, the Executive Director of the Institute for Innovation in Prosecution at John Jay College and Sam Rivera, Associate Vice President of Housing at The Fortune Society, discuss the role of the prosecutor and challenging the systematic ways it has always operated. Lang touched on how racial inequality plays a role in our justice system and that leadership positions, like a prosecutor, need to overcome this. Because of this and knowing that prosecutors must enforce the law, she suggested that prosecutors start focusing on why the crime was committed and not how to punish the offender. The underlying causes of why they are committing the crime could have to do with behavioral health issues.

Lang suggested different solutions to help with justice reform in the courts and by prosecutors. Some included developing community outreach programs and strategies, studying internal disparities, not prosecuting whole categories of conduct, diverting low-level, non-violent cases out of the system, looking into public health models and drug treatments and implementing interventions to guard against implicit biases. With measures being taken to try to speed up trials and decrease bail expenses, she thinks looking at the prosecutors’ role will also help transform justice reform.

Rivera, a former inmate, recounted the challenges he faced when released. Transitioning back into society, he struggled with finding employment and support. Inmates need programs to help educate them, find employment and housing opportunities, and provide mental health services and overcoming addiction if they face this. To help with these obstacles, suggestions were made to prosecutors that included considering successful re-entry from prison as a priority, developing conviction review and integrity units and advocating for clemency or sentence reductions. If the role of the prosecutor were to be re-evaluated and examined, making changes to this could help inmates adjust better to life during and after prison.

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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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