Probation and parole have historically been used to provide someone with a second chance. It is designed to offer alternatives other than keeping them in jail or sending them directly there. At the heart of these ideas, is to allow the individual to demonstrate how they have changed and can serve as a productive member of society. In the event that they have violated these terms, there are number of actions which can be taken in the process. The most notable include:
Providing a written notice of the alleged violations.
Setting up a preliminary (probable cause hearing), where a judge will decide if there is enough evidence for the case to continue further.
Conducting a revocation hearing.
During a revocation hearing the defendant is allowed to: testify, have an attorney representing them and present witnesses on their behalf. If they cannot afford adequate legal protection, a court appointed lawyer will be provided. The standard is a preponderance of evidence. This means that the state needs to show how the individual knowingly violated these provisions. That is based upon the probability of evidence being truthful and accurate. (Kates, 2007) (Peterjisilia, 2002)
If it is determined that they are in violation these terms the offender could be: sent to jail, disciplined through increased supervision or returned to similar kinds of supervision. The basic idea is to create a procedure where those who are on probation or parole have the opportunity to refute the allegations against them. This is when a judge will decide if they violated the agreement and have the opportunity to impose harsher sentences upon them. (Kates, 2007) (Peterjisilia, 2002)
In the last several years, the rates of recidivism have been increasing exponentially inside New York City. This is because the Department of Probation and Parole is facing numerous challenges which are making it difficult for them to effectively monitor offenders. The most notable include:
In adequate training for personnel.
Staff members are overwhelmed with a variety of cases.
A lack of funding or political support for these programs.
The combination of these factors is creating a situation where the majority of criminals are not adequately monitored. This increases their chances of becoming involved in illegal activities by at least 65%. (Kates, 2007) (Peterjisilia, 2002)
In response to these issues, the state of New York has been focusing less on parole and more on incarceration. The primary reasons are politicians do not feel that this is addressing the long-term issues in helping someone to become reformed. Instead, they will use this as an opportunity to commit new offenses and engage in criminal activities (with recent or former associates). (Kates, 2007) (Peterjisilia, 2002)
In response to these challenges, public officials concluded that they need to keep these people behind bars for long periods of time. The idea is that criminals will not have the opportunity to engage in their old activities and will be adequately punished. After they have served most of their sentence, is the point they will be much older and less likely to become involved in their former lives. This has made it difficult for someone to have their parole approved. Moreover, most the courts are now sentencing defendants to jail vs. having them supervised through probation. (Kates, 2007) (Peterjisilia, 2002)
Recently, there have been calls for reforming the current system. This is because many convicts believe that the current system is too harsh and does not give them with an opportunity to show how they have changed. At the same time, the courts have concluded that it does not offer felons the chance of reforming and improving their lives for the better. This is leading to arguments that the status quo is practicing a form of cruel and unusual punishment (by not providing adequate resources for these programs). (Rosenthal, 2011) (Kates, 2007) (Widener, 2007)
Furthermore, the costs of incarcerating someone are dramatically higher than having them properly supervised. This has resulted in the state spending an average of $40 thousand per year to house and feed them when they are in jail. While, the costs of placing someone on probation or parole are $4 thousand per year. These figures are leading to changes in the current approach. As the harsher sentences are not working and it is increasing the amount of money the state is spending…