Inside the chaotic, underfunded world of probation and parole
Hardy’s other critical point is that a system that relies exclusively on ignoring violations or handing out long prison terms will fail to change behavior, protect public safety, and provide justice. Finding an intermediate route for responding to violations is one of the central goals of the “swift, certain, and fair” approaches to community supervision that were described in this magazine in 2013 by the late Mark Kleiman. Such systems combine frequent testing for drug use with transparent, pre-specified, and modest consequences (for example, a single night in jail instead of a return to prison to serve out one’s term). This approach also minimizes staff paperwork and delays when supervisors report an infraction to the judge. Evidence shows that swift, certain, and fair systems reduce substance use, crime, and reincarceration among people on community supervision. Reformers should look to these strategies as one solution to many of the problems that Hardy documents in his candid, engaging book.