For virtually every convicted felon, the words “parole” and “probation” represent dark clouds that could linger for years as they try to reintegrate into society.
In theory, probation and parole, or “correctional control” should not be punitive. But in reality, those who oversee post-incarceration policies and supervision often view their roles as an extension of prisons, rather than rehabilitation.
Naturally, parole/probation quality can vary depending on factors like geographical location, type of incarceration system (public vs. private), community values, and of course, politics.
The key for any convicted felon to succeed in an increasingly difficult correctional control world is knowledge.
Knowing exactly who and what rules you’re dealing with under supervision could be the difference between living a productive, happy life, and finding yourself back behind bars for even the slightest misstep.
Where you live may also have a significant impact on your ability to succeed under supervision. To put it bluntly, some jurisdictions are incentivized to re-incarcerated felons simply on the basis of profit.
It is therefore extremely important to fully understand the nature of the parole/probation system in your location, so that you can plan your immediate and future actions accordingly.
Every state has both progressive and regressive jurisdictions when it comes to supervision. Virginia, for example, has one of the most progressive probation districts in the country (Albemarle County), as well as one of the most restrictive and punitive (Stafford).
The key knowledge in this example is that Stafford County operates a highly profitable private regional jail, while Albemarle runs a publicly funded regional jail and therefore, seeks to remove released offenders from probation as quickly as possible.
This naturally applies to every state, with some – Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Idaho for example, offering sparse supervisory refuge for convicted felons.
Regardless of where you currently live, a wealth of information is readily available to determine if another location may improve your chances for a good life. A good starting point is this state-by-state report from the Prison Policy Initiative.
Even if you reside in a highly restrictive or punitive district, you should have the right to live and work where you choose within each state.
Take the time to thoroughly research the pros and cons, general reputations, news articles, and relevant statistics through any valid information source available. So you can learn about the parole and probation environments in your vicinity.
Though correctional control in the United States is, in general, very poor and ultimately designed as a revolving door back to prison, many districts have adopted progressive policies and programs aimed at actually assisting convicted felons achieve success.
Do your research, gain the knowledge relevant to your individual goals, and make sure you put enough effort into taking advantage of each district’s benefits, while complying with all supervisory rules and restrictions until they no longer have a reason to keep you in the system.
Probation and Parole in the United States – Bureau of Justice Statistics report abstract, 2020
“Probation Nation” – US Drug Test Centers research article with state-by-state statistics, 2022
“Probation and Parole Systems Marked by High Stakes, Missed Opportunities” – PEW Trust article, 2018