Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Between Fear and Barbarity

Connecticut's parole system is back in the news a couple of months after a pair of parolees from the state were accused of kidnapping and murdering a mother and her two daughters. Christine Stuart reported in the New York Times earlier this week that Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell has halted paroles of all inmates imprisoned for violent crime.

“Until we can find a better way to determine who poses a risk to the public if released, we will not add to the ranks of people on parole,”

Of course, the parolees who stand accused of the murders were not in prison for violent crime to begin with. More importantly, we have no really reliable ways to predict who poses a risk to the public. But if the answer is to keep prisoners eligible for parole locked up until we have such reassurance, states like Connecticut will soon face the prospects of mass prison overcrowding, and the resulting barbarism we are now witnessing in California's super extended but still grossly overcrowded prison system.

Violent offenders should receive close supervision in the community once they have been released. But so long as Governors trade in the promise of total security through imprisonment, prisons will continue to become increasingly barbarous and the resources to make parole supervision more effecive, will never be available.

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