Probation and Parole Officers Are Rethinking Their Rules As Coronavirus Spreads



“In the effort to release people from jails to stem coronavirus outbreaks behind bars, those jailed for probation and parole violations have been an obvious choice. They’re locked up not for committing new crimes but for breaking the rules of their supervision, like drinking alcohol, traveling without permission, or missing appointments. In New York alone, Governor Andrew Cuomo last week ordered the release of more than 1,000 such people from jails around the state.

These efforts spotlight the hundreds of thousands of people who are jailed each year for behavior that would be routine if they weren’t on probation or parole. Research has long called into question the public safety benefits of locking them up, and other traditional probation and parole tactics. Now social distancing orders to slow the virus are providing a way to test some changes critics have advocated. Fifty reform-minded probation and parole chiefs last week called for states and counties to ‘suspend or severely limit’ jailing people for supervision violations that aren’t crimes, among other changes, in response to COVID-19.”

– Beth Schwartzapfel

To read the full piece and learn how the Columbia Justice Lab is fuelling this advocacy, visit the Marshall Project.

Photo by Michael Kirby Smith for The New York Times, via Redux.