KAREN ARCENAS REED OFFERS FRESH IDEAS; ARTICLE URGES ELDERLY AND NONVIOLENT RELEASES
“The year is 2030. Five California prisons have closed over the past decade and the inmate population has dropped 30% to a record low.” So goes one of the sections in “Prison to parole: A push for alternatives in California,” by Karen Arcenas Reed.
Reed is a parole administrator for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The Sept. 19, 2022, article was published by Corrections1.com.
It said that it did not intend to predict the future but “to project a variety of possible scenarios useful for planning and action in anticipation of the emerging landscape facing policing.”
The article’s main ideas focus on efficiencies gained from web-based services for parolees.
The “futures study” used a “futures forecasting process,” which meant that “Managing the future means influencing it – creating, constraining and adapting to emerging trends and events in a way that optimizes the opportunities and minimizes the threats of relevance to the profession.”
The article admits the present parole supervision system is “antiquated” and the continuum of care from prison to parole is “a disconnect.” It also acknowledged that the rate of recidivism falls short of the $13.4 billion spent on corrections annually, which for a population of 99,000 comes to $135,353 per person.
Reed’s paper cited California United for a Responsible Budget as supporting the closure of five prisons within the next five years. Savings, Reed said, would add up the most by keeping those who present a danger but releasing anyone else, especially the elderly, “into a system that facilitates their success.”
Much of such a success-facilitating system would come from connecting parolees to professionals who could help with post-incarceration needs. The system would provide access to mental and physical health services, family connections, access to employers and education, and even remote work.
Reed asserts that the COVID-19 pandemic had accelerated such remote access to professional services. Many prisons today use tele-medicine and Reed envisions similar approaches for use beyond physical care. “Remote systems may signal a future for parole,” and Reed sees “potential for success.”
To reach the 2030 scenario, Reed says that CDCR should first reach out to potential allies within prison, parole, and the community; second, CDCR should establish a plan for implementation; and third, CDCR should select a facility to pilot a transitional prison model that screens potential participants.
Such a transitional site should allow its residents to wear purchased clothing, hold a job in the community, and develop pro-social competencies, which would involve reunification with family members, practicing restorative justice, and engagement in remotely conducted rehabilitative programming.
Reed says that a useful way to envision change involves imagining a future in which change has taken place, which “illustrates a plausible world” that would guide CDCR. Her conclusion envisions a world with “fewer prisoners, less recidivism, and lower costs” and an increase in former prisoners as productive members of society.
The academic conference “Corrections, Rehabilitation, and Reform: 21st Century Solutions to 20th Century Problems” hosted by the Prison University Project (now Mount Tamalpais College) at San Quentin State Prison on Oct. 5, 2018, addressed the same issues Reed discussed in her paper in a panel called “Alternatives to Incarceration.”
The panel discussed innovations called “e-incarceration” that would use low-cost home security systems for remote monitoring of home incarceration and GPS tracking for virtual fencing of incarcerated persons as they commute to workplaces. The panel concluded that the internet could make extraordinary contributions to incarceration and associated cost savings.
Since launching in 2007, Corrections1.com says it has quickly become the leading online community and resource for corrections worldwide. “Our mission is to provide the information and resources correctional officers need to make their facilities safe and controlled environments. We do this by providing a secure and reliable online environment for the exchange of information between corrections officers, administrators and departments from across the United States and around the world,” the site reports.