By Christine Stuart via CT News Junkie
Published May 23, 2023
Connecticut’s use of community corrections, particularly aggressive probation tactics, traps thousands of people in the correctional system and fuels a troubling cycle of incarceration, according to a new report released by the Katal Center and the Prison Policy Initiative. The report highlights the disproportionate impact on people of color and individuals with low income.
Titled “Excessive, Unjust, and Expensive: Fixing Connecticut’s Probation and Parole Problems,” the report scrutinizes the full system of correctional control, encompassing incarceration, probation, and parole. The findings revealed a pattern of mass punishment in Connecticut, even surpassing the rates in conservative states such as Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Utah.
In Connecticut, nearly three times as many people are under probation and parole as are incarcerated. The report estimates that nearly 35,000 individuals are under probation or parole, with over 30,000 of them on probation, making up almost 1% of the state’s total population. After year upon year of declines mirroring a national trend, the probation population took an upturn in late 2021 and rose steadily in 2022. Every month, roughly 1,700 people in Connecticut begin probation, about 1,200 complete it, and several dozen people on probation are incarcerated for a violation.
These figures are driven by noncriminal “technical” violations of probation and parole — such as missing a curfew or testing positive for drugs or alcohol — resulting in hundreds of individuals being incarcerated every year. Such penalties often have devastating effects, leading to job loss, eviction, and loss of child custody.
Probation, in particular, comes with burdensome fees and obligations that make it challenging for people to succeed, essentially turning compliance with court-ordered conditions into a full-time job. Furthermore, individuals released from prison to parole supervision often struggle with the reentry process, with over one-third of prison admissions statewide resulting from people on parole being re-incarcerated, a significant portion of them for noncriminal “technical” violations.
The report argues that community supervision does not contribute to public safety and calls for a reduction in probation and parole populations. It also recommends reforms to make community supervision more fair, just, and supportive. The suggested reforms include restricting the use of incarceration for verified noncriminal “technical” violations, eliminating automatic detention for such violations, applying earned time credit to supervision sentences, and bolstering due process for those accused of technical violations.
Gabriel Sayegh, co-author and co-executive director of the Katal Center for Equity, Health, and Justice, urged immediate action from the state legislature and governor. Leah Wang, report co-author and Research Analyst at the Prison Policy Initiative, emphasized the unique opportunity for Connecticut to lead in criminal justice reform by overhauling its probation and parole systems.
Alize Alvaraado, a member of the Katal Center, shared a personal experience of parole and probation system’s failure to provide adequate rehabilitation, resulting in job loss and emotional turmoil. Similar experiences were echoed by other community members, further emphasizing the urgent need for reform.
Maribel Rodriguez, community organizer with the Katal Center, urged Gov. Ned Lamont and state lawmakers to act on the report’s recommendations, reduce the state’s probation and parole population, and work towards a more equitable system.