Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=214149
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Families and friends to be blamed for recidivism cases, experts say

by Idyli Tsakiri Karatzaferi
Jan 16, 2013


Lack of support from family and friends leads more than half of Illinois parolees to violate parole and return to jail.

“It is very rare for someone to get out of prison and not to make future mistakes,” said John Maki, executive director of the John Howard Association, a nonprofit prison reform organization.

One recent example of a recidivism case is an Evanston man arrested Monday and charged with drug dealing while on parole.

Tracy Miller, 24, was first arrested for armed robbery, said Cmdr. Jay Parrott of the Evanston Police Department, and went to prison in March 2010. He was released on parole in August 2012, and less than five months later was arrested again and charged with possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver and possession of a controlled substance, both class Xfelonies. Class X felonies require prison time and are not subject to probation.

Lack of support from family and friends of the released parolee is the No. 1 cause of parole violation, said Dr. Michael Fields, a clinical - forensic psychologist. How long an individual spends in jail is also of major significance.

“The longer they stay in prison the more they become institutionalized,” Fields said. Most convicts come from impoverished backgrounds and have limited access to adequate work, which pushes them back into a life of crime, Fields said.

When gang members return to their old neighborhoods, they are likely to violate their paroles, Fields said.

“It is very difficult for these people to avoid past associations,” Fields said. “Often they do not have the means to move somewhere else,” which is another potential reason that can drag a parolee back to criminal activity.

There are two types of parole violation, Maki said. The actual parole violation in which the parolee commits another crime and the technical parole violation in which the parolee breaks the conditions of his or her release.

In Illinois 52 percent of released criminals wind up back in jail. . Technical violation of parole, alone, costs taxpayers about $100 million a year in terms of processing and incarceration, Maki said.

That statistic is not likely to improve soon because, according to Fields, the justice system is broken when dealing with criminal recidivism.

In an effort to help fix the problem, U.S. Rep. Danny Davis (D-Chicago) authored legislation that passed in 2008 that aims to help former inmates transition to life after incarceration.

“We are the most incarcerated nation on the face of the Earth,” U.S. Rep. Danny Davis (D-Chicago) told Medill Reports in December. “If these people become contributing members of society, then they become assets, as opposed to the liabilities that we know them as being.”