Probation and parole are two of the most significant aspects of our American criminal justice system; however, they are also among the most complicated and criticized components of this system. As the author of Probation and Parole explains, probation and parole agencies are a “fragmented, heterogeneous collection of organizations found at the federal, state, county and municipal levels” (Abadinsky,2008, p. 2) that are designed to provide Americans with “greater protection from crime” while ensuring that “efforts to afford this protection do not jeopardize constitutional rights” (Abadinsky,2008, p. 3). Although probation and parole requirements and policies vary widely, they are often treated as a unified system and criticized by the public for being expensive and ineffective at preventing crime. Furthermore, probation and parole agencies are frequently made scapegoats for the trouble with reconciling the “contradictory goals” and “competing expectations” that inevitably surround the justice system in America (Abadinsky, 2008, p. 3). It seems as though regardless of individual agencies’ effectiveness and costs, the American public generally disproves of the probation and paroling systems and seeks an alternative system for bringing criminals to justice.
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One possible alternative to probation and parole is reinvestment. This innovative justice strategy has been demonstrated to be effective in some states, including Connecticut, Kansas and Arizona. Essentially, the reinvestment strategy is similar to parole and probation in that it seeks to reduce spending on incarceration and increase crime prevention and rehabilitation. With reinvestment, however, efforts are focused not on individual criminals but on the community at large. Funds are concentrated on “increasing public safety” and raising crime prevention awareness in general in crime-prone areas and “improving conditions in those neighborhoods from which large numbers of people are sent to, and return from, prison” (Justice Strategies, 2009). This shift in focus might be one possible way to make the outcomes of probation and parole more effective in keeping the public safe while preventing criminals to become caught up in the prison cycle.
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