By Megan Quattlebaum and Juliene James
Imagine a city about the size of Los Angeles, where the entire population lives with the knowledge that the smallest infraction—a traffic ticket, a failed drug test, a missed curfew—could land them in prison. This isn’t some fictional dystopia. For 4.5 million people in the United States, it’s reality. That’s the number of folks in this country who are on probation or parole, and those individuals can, and do, end up incarcerated even if they’ve not been accused of a new crime.
Probation and parole are supposed to serve as either a productive alternative to incarceration or a guideway out of the criminal justice system. The reality, however, is that mandated supervision acts more like a tripwire that, if triggered by even the slightest action, can mean a return to lockup.