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, Gov. Andrew Cuomo 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 been calling for. Fifty reform-minded probation and parole chiefs have 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. Please see the full article.