I discuss California's broken parole system in a two part interview that debuts today on the UC Berkeley News Center website (read the interview with News Center reporter Cathy Cockrell). Please leave any comments on the interview here on the blog.
We are in time of crises and thus one of opportunity for fundamentally reinventing our institutions. For reasons I address at length in the interview, parole cannot work as it was intended to. Instead it is a system that offers a predictably routinely broken promise of control while subjecting thousands of ex-prisoners to a revolving door system of repetitive short imprisonments that can serve no known function of punishment.
It pains me to say so, because I have met so many dedicated and talented parole agents and supervisors over the years but if I became Czar of California I would abolish parole completely, transferring its helping functions to the private sector by giving each prisoner upon release a voucher to purchase drug treatment or job training, and a list of certified providers in their community. I would transfer its control functions to a unit of the state police who would be responsible for conducting regular investigations over a group of released prisoners whose track record of violence or serious gang involvement warrants the additional expense.
Many of these talented agents and supervisors should be absorbed into a revitalized system of county probation where they would have responsibilities to manage in the community (or after a jail sentence) many of the same people who are now routinely sent to state prison but who can and should be kept at the county level.