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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

Those released from incarceration are faced with many struggles after their release. They hope for change and redemption, and fear that they will not be accepted back into society. These fears are compacted by the way they are portrayed in society. The Board of Supervisors in San Francisco intends to clean up the language used in the criminal justice system. The city and county of San Francisco received a proposal that would cause words such as “felon,” “offender,” “convict,” and “parolee” to be exchanged for more accepting language that does not emphasize the objectification of people, and focuses on more neutral and positive ways to describe these individuals.

Instances of more acceptable language is “returning resident” or “formerly imprisoned/incarcerated person”. Instead of calling someone a “parolee” they would be called a “supervised individual.” A “young offender” or “delinquent” would be described as a “young individual affected by the judicial system.”

With one in every five Californians having a criminal record, this change of language can make a drastic difference. There is a stigma attached to such language that can be incredibly dehumanizing. They want to return to their families and contribute to their communities, but are facing so many barriers hindering their rehabilitation. The Board of Supervisors believes wording with negative connotations should not be one of those barriers. The proposal stresses that “Language shapes the ideas, perceptions, beliefs, attitudes and actions of individuals, societies and governments. People-first language places the individual before the criminal record by using neutral, objective, and non-pejorative language.”

The Sentencing Commission, the Reentry Council of the Bay Area, and the Youth Commission of San Francisco – a group of 17 youths aged 12 to 23 – passed resolutions supporting the altered language. However, the proposal has not yet been signed by Mayor London Breed.

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