Increasing Parolees to Improve Public Safety?
Iowa officials have increased the number of people out on parole. This, they say, isn’t only decreasing operating costs of corrections but will also work to ensure those people being released into the communities are better equipped to handle life on the “outside.”
According to the Courier Lee News Service, the Board of Parole increased the number of parolees by 24% from 2011 to 2012, a pretty remarkable jump. This year that growth is expected again.
As a result, the prison population has dropped by about 800 and the number of people being supervised in communities across the state has stabilized at around 30,500.
For many people, more convicted criminals on the outside is scary. The people who are frightened by this notion are not those who are educated in crime and punishment and instead get their information about the system through primetime crime dramas.
The vast majority of men and women who are incarcerated will, one day, be released. Those who are not released on parole and instead “max out” their sentence, are simply set free into the communities with little support and direction.
Parolees, on the other hand, are given assistance with job searching and housing, as well as drug-alcohol treatment and mental health therapy.
To increase public safety, the state’s Parole Board must balance which inmates are ready for release—which pose little to no risk to the community and those who will benefit from the structure of community supervision.
Department of Corrections Director John Baldwin and Chairman of the Iowa Board of Parole Jason Carlstrom say they are working together to balance public safety with the interest of victims. But, while doing this they are also providing help for the people they have incarcerated—a smart, though perhaps not completely popular move.
They say they want to save incarceration for those offenders who are at the highest risk of reoffending and who pose the most danger. But, they know this is a calculated move.
“Our job is not just to lower prison population,” said Carlstrom. “That would be easy—just open the door.”
As the state tries to cut back on the ol’ lock-em-up-and-throw-away-the-key rhetoric, we may expect to see criminal convictions ending in a greater amount of incarceration alternatives, including probation and diversion programs. States like California, faced with massive budget problems and overcrowded prisons are experimenting with parole split sentences which hope to both save money and reduce criminal recidivism.
If you are accused of a crime in Iowa, these changes could work in your favor.
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