By John N. Mitchell
Pointing to the punitive nature of parole and supervision in Philadelphia and across the state, District Attorney Larry Krasner has announced his office’s new policy of working with judges to reduce parole and supervision in both felonies and misdemeanors.
“There is data that points to the fact that extensive supervisory periods in addition to, and in many cases equal to, sentences results in diminishing returns,” Krasner said. “This not only translates to higher rates of recidivism and costs, but also in terms of excessively high case loads for parole officers and the destruction, in many cases, of families who are under the heavy weight of excessive parole.”
People on probation and parole can be required to pay monthly fees for the duration of their supervision. And the longer someone is under supervision, Krasner said, the higher their risk of getting sent back to prison for a probation violation or losing a job because an employer becomes impatient with an employee who has to leave for regular appointments with his or her parole or probation officer.
“We can’t prove it causes poverty, but it certainly keeps people in poverty,” said Sangeeta Prasad, a Stoneleigh Fellow in the District Attorney’s Office.
Pennsylvania has both the highest number (112,351) and rate (1,109 per 100,000 adults) of parole supervision in the nation, according to a 2018 study by Columbia University. Pennsylvanians are three times more likely to be under parole supervision than adults in the rest of the United States.
In Philadelphia, which has 1.5 million residents, 44,000 people are currently under supervision, Krasner said. New York, which has a population almost six times that of Philadelphia, has just 12,700 people under supervision.
And a 2017 study by the Council of State Governments Justice Center found that nearly one-third of Pennsylvania’s prison beds are occupied by people who have violated conditions of probation or parole, costing the state $420 million annually.