Unless you want to be the kind of society that builds a machine-gun-studded wall around 100 square miles of east Arkansas, then periodically tosses new prisoners and bags of beans over it while allowing the Lord of the Flies to sort it all out, parole is necessary. We're a country that believes in second chances, and the fact is the overwhelming majority of people who go to prison will come out sooner or later, most of them on parole. But recidivism by parolees is a problem. A recent study of parolee recidivism, mandated by Arkansas Act 1030 which passed in the last session of the legislature, found that of the 10,072 people placed on parole in 2010, 57.5 percent have since been re-arrested on at least one charge, with 42.2 percent eventually going back to the prison.
That's a big, alarming number. A convenient whipping boy for that number is the Arkansas Department of Community Correction, the agency that handles the supervision of parolees. Many say it hasn't done a good job with the "supervision" part in the past. While conservatives are sure to suggest that DCC's failures are some kind of bleeding-heart conspiracy to let criminals run free, a look at the numbers helps bring things into perspective.
Parole officers appear to be overwhelmed. According to data obtained from DCC, currently there are 23,043 people on parole in Arkansas, versus 399 parole officers. That's 57 parolees for every parole officer.
In Pulaski County, the caseloads are even more out of whack: 4,594 parolees in Pulaski County — 20 percent of the state total — versus 55 parole officers. That's 83 parolees per officer.
Most parolees are required to visit their parole officer weekly or monthly, while keeping their PO updated on things like counseling, housing and job changes, and any pending court dates, many of which the parole officer is required to attend. Workloads like that are undoubtedly part of the reason there was a 37 percent turnover rate for parole officers in the state last year, not to mention providing mile-wide cracks for a would-be parole violator to slip through.
While high caseloads explain at least part of the parole and recidivism problem, it's clear that poverty and the inability to find work and housing in a world where nearly every employment and apartment application includes "have you ever been convicted of a felony?" has a part to play in why parolees recidivate.
In the same study mandated by Act 1030, of those placed on parole in 2010 and subsequently rearrested within three years, 78 percent were arrested for non-violent crimes: selling drugs, burglary, forgery, failure to appear and pay fines, theft and misdemeanor property crimes. Meanwhile, 7.5 percent of 2010 parolees were re-arrested for a violent felony — murder, sex crime, felony assault, robbery or "other violent" offense — while 12.2 percent were rearrested for a violent misdemeanor. Another 2.2 percent were arrested for possession of a weapon.
All this is to say that the issues involved in why parolees come out of prison and commit more crimes — unemployment, poverty, overloaded parole officers, nature, nurture, addiction, need, greed, bad wiring, untreated mental problems or plain ol' meanness — are not as simple as turning the key in a cell door. But in order for it to work, parole has to mean something, both for society and for parolees. It also has to be flexible enough to not make parolees feel like they're living with what one employment advocate the Times talked to called "a choke collar around their necks," preventing them from leading the normal, law-abiding lives that we as a society claim to want for them.
Sharia law? WTF is this clown talking about? Must believe in black helicopters, too.
Interesting how this has moved to evictions when the story had little to do with…
How is a failure to pay rent not criminal? Are you serious? Failure to pay…
A&E Feature / To-Do List / In Brief / Movie Reviews / Music Reviews / Theater Reviews / A&E News / Art Notes / Graham Gordy / Books / Media / Dining Reviews / Dining Guide / What's Cookin' / Calendar / The Televisionist / Movie Listings / Gallery Listings