Rethinking technical parole violations and our focus on failure and recidivism.

Individuals, families, and communities are harmed when someone is returned to custody for making a U-turn.

SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images

Just a few years ago, Nelson served 90-days at the notorious Rikers Island jail for making an illegal U-turn. If that seems unreasonable, it’s because it is. Under current law, individuals on parole can be re-incarcerated for weeks, months, or even years for violating the conditions of their parole, such as being late for curfew, fare evasion, changing one’s residence without permission, or making a U-turn. The circumstances are often inconsequential. When individuals are re-incarcerated for these non-criminal offenses, they are referred to as technical parole violations (TPVs). While the number of individuals entering our prisons for new crimes is on the decline in many states, those incarcerated for TPVs is increasing significantly, revealing a disturbing trend in our criminal justice system.

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