Criminal ‘justice’ parole system pushes workers back into prison

By Brian Williams
March 5, 2018

There is a debate today among the capitalist rulers and those they’ve tasked with running their criminal “justice” system — whether it’s in their best interests to reduce the number of workers behind bars and those on the parole and probation merry-go-round that all too often puts them back in prison. Some prison administrators are calling to cut the number of people on parole and probation in half, saying they don’t have the money to keep up with necessary “supervision” costs.

U.S. rulers put the largest percentage of the population in prison of any country in the world. Some 1.5 million are in federal and state prisons; another 750,000 in local jails, most of whom have never been convicted of anything. And there are 4.7 million people on probation or parole — subject to ongoing restrictions, indignities and intrusion into their affairs by their minders.

The numbers of working people imprisoned has more than quadrupled since the 1980s — with the biggest jump, nearly 60 percent, coming under the Bill Clinton administration in the 1990s. The number of people on parole and probation grew just as rapidly.

“Originally designed as alternatives to incarceration, probation and parole are a deprivation of liberty in their own right and have become key drivers of mass incarceration by serving as a trip wire to reincarceration for many of those under supervision,” said a report issued by Columbia University’s Justice Lab Jan. 29. The report was signed by 20 parole and probation administrators in New York, Los Angeles and elsewhere.

The study found that 33 percent of people in jail and 23 percent of those in prison in the mid-2000s were on probation at the time of their arrest, a quarter of whom were thrown back behind bars solely for technical violations.

One in 53 adults in the U.S. is on probation or parole. For African-American males it’s one in 12, and nearly 20 percent for Black youth.

“As someone currently on probation I feel as if I’m walking on glass on top of heated coals,” Valdez Heron, organizer for Katal Center for Health, Equity and Justice, told the media. “It’s definitely mentally straining knowing that if you make even a small mistake, like showing up late to a meeting, then you could find yourself back in jail, maybe even losing your job or housing.”

The report urges that “probation and parole populations be significantly reduced,” that “revocations to incarceration be sharply curbed,” and “probation and parole fines be curtailed.”

Over the past 18 years there has been a 31 percent reduction in the number of people in New York state prisons, a report issued the same day says. But those imprisoned for parole violations has been rising.

For every 10 people who succeeded in making their way through the hoops and getting off parole in New York in 2015, nine others found themselves back in prison. And, in 2016, people imprisoned for technical violations on parole accounted for 29 percent of all incarcerations in New York state prisons.

Many workers one step from jail

Many workers caught up by the pressures of the capitalist social crisis find themselves a step away from financial disaster and run-ins with capitalist “justice.”

All kinds of things in capitalist society are stacked against working people. If you can keep a minimum balance of $1,500 in a Bank of America account, you can get free checking. But, the Washington Post reports, “More than 40 percent of Americans say they struggle even to make ends meet each month and would be unable to cover an unexpected $400 expense without real hardship.” That means monthly fees and charges for the checks you write — and onerous charges if you ever write a check you can’t cover.

The Post article, entitled “Why It Costs So Much to Be Poor in America,” describes how Sirrea Monroe’s electricity was cut off because she fell $70 behind on her bill. She called to pay and get the electricity turned back on. The company representative replied, “I need $250 for the ‘new customer’ deposit.” That took her another six months to pay off.

Sitting behind all this is jail. They say there’s no debtors prison in the U.S., but if you can’t pay your tickets, or fines or your bail, you end up behind bars.

“Kevin Thompson in DeKalb County, Ga., made an illegal left turn and spent five days in county jail because he could not quickly pay $838 in fees and fines related to the traffic stop,” the Post said.