The Probation Trap
October 24, 2019 6:53 AM   Subscribe

Counting jail, prison, probation, and parole, Pennsylvania now has the nation’s second-highest rate of people under correctional control. We found a system that routinely punishes poverty, mental illness, and addiction. We met a woman who was jailed two months for failing to report to probation because she wasn’t permitted to bring her newborn child and couldn’t afford a babysitter. We met a man who was locked up because he didn’t have $227 to pay for a court-ordered drug evaluation. As a result, some people remain under court control for years after being convicted of low-level crimes, resentenced two, three, four, or five times over for infractions including missing appointments, falling behind on payments, or testing positive for marijuana.
posted by xingcat (7 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
that first graph is shocking
posted by thelonius at 7:20 AM on October 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

It's also clear that those with the fewest resources are the least able to meet the conditions of probation.
On the one hand, well, duh.

On the other hand, there are people whose ideology won't let them believe that without seeing the data.

On the other other hand, there are also people whose ideology won't let them believe that even after seeing the data.

On the fourth hand, there are also people who believe it but don't see it as a problem.

I dunno.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:16 AM on October 24, 2019 [4 favorites]

“ I shall quote a single example to illustrate what I advance. The civil and criminal procedure of the Americans has only two means of action -committal and bail. The first measure taken by the magistrate is to exact security from the defendant, or, in case of refusal, to incarcerate him: the ground of the accusation and the importance of the charges against him are then discussed. It is evident that a legislation of this kind is hostile to the poor man, and favorable only to the rich. The poor man has not always a security to produce, even in a civil cause; and if he is obliged to wait for justice in prison, he is speedily reduced to distress. The wealthy individual, on the contrary, always escapes imprisonment in civil causes; nay, more, he may readily elude the punishment which awaits him for a delinquency by breaking his bail. So that all the penalties of the law are, for him, reducible to fines. [04n] Nothing can be more aristocratic than this system of legislation. Yet in America it is the poor who make the law, and they usually reserve the greatest social advantages to themselves. The explanation of the phenomenon is to be found in England; the laws of which I speak are English, [04o] and the Americans have retained them, however repugnant they may be to the tenor of their legislation and the mass of their ideas.” - Democracy In America, Alexis de Tocqueville 1831
posted by The Whelk at 8:32 AM on October 24, 2019 [13 favorites]

that first graph and statement says crime has gone down but incarceration and probation have gone up significantly.

i'm not sure that's the argument they're trying to make because people who think only criminals are caught up in the criminal system think that sounds about right. put more people in jail, crime goes down, so yeah the system wis working right? (i read the comments)

this article is trying to expose that probation is a catch-22 and i'm not sure it really does that at all.

and the graphics style is annoying and i'd much prefer a static page so i can see everything at once. uggh.
posted by affectionateborg at 8:38 AM on October 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'm still diving into this (far-reaching, extremely well put together) piece, but wasn't Philadelphia looking at making marijuana use/possession a citable offense (like a parking ticket) rather than a criminal one to help unclog their legal system? What happened with that?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:05 AM on October 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

There can be no redemption for the judicial system in this country. It is tainted by the original sins of America and thus is incapable of even being fair, let alone just. It will have be rebuilt from its foundation.
posted by ob1quixote at 9:39 AM on October 24, 2019 [7 favorites]

This is the answer to all those pundits and talking heads who argue against marijuana legalization and sentencing reform by claiming that "nobody gets locked up for simple possession", no, they get locked up after getting arrested for simple possession and then not being able to comply with conditions that they're forced to accept just to get out of jail. So yeah, not many people are getting CONVICTED AND SENTENCED for simple possession, but if many, many of them are still ending up locked up for low level marijuana offenses.
posted by youthenrage at 10:18 AM on October 24, 2019 [8 favorites]

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