Criminal Justice Reform Shouldn’t Just Focus on People Behind Bars. Here’s How We Can Improve the Lives of Millions More

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TIME on October 15, 2019 by BY TIM WALZ AND MIKE PARSON

Tim Walz is the Democratic governor of the state of Minnesota.  Mike Parson is the Republican governor of the state of Missouri.

When we talk about criminal justice reform, we naturally think about the people behind bars. But there’s another population that gets far less attention — one that’s facing a world of challenges which, if not addressed, will keep our nation’s prison populations stubbornly high.

About 4.5 million people in the United States are on probation or parole supervision — double the number of people locked up. If this population were its own city, it’d be the second largest in the country.

Probation and parole supervision are offered either in lieu of prison time or in exchange for early release. These options are meant to help people avoid crime and succeed in the community while keeping them out of prison. Instead, the data reveal a harsh reality.

A new report by The Council of State Governments Justice Center shows that 45% of state prison admissions nationwide are the result of violations of probation or parole, either for new crimes or technical violations. In 20 states, including Minnesota and Missouri, more than half of admissions are due to supervision violations.

Even more alarming is the number of people who are being sent back to prison as a result of technical violations, which are typically minor infractions, such as failed drug tests or missed curfews. According to the report, approximately 95,000 people are incarcerated as a result of technical violations on any given day. Incarcerating people for these types of infractions collectively costs states $2.8 billion annually, with 12 states each spending more than $100 million.  READ ON