Mass Supervision
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Description
In 2016, after 30 years behind bars and seven hearings in front of the Arizona parole board, Jacob Wideman was released from prison. Being on parole is a strange hybrid between prison and freedom. You’re still technically serving your sentence, but in the community. When Jake first got out, he was on home arrest, a strict version of parole. He had to wear an ankle monitor so the state could track his whereabouts, and he couldn’t leave his house without permission. Jake also had to follow more than two dozen separate parole conditions, among them: no driving; no contact with minors, no drinking alcohol. Not following any one of the rules could land him back in prison on a moment’s notice. And the vague catchall condition, “I will follow all directives I am given, either verbal or written.” This last one would come back to haunt him. On any given day, a quarter of incarcerated people nationwide are there for breaking the rules of their parole or probation. These behaviors are called technical violations and can include things like moving to a new apartment without permission or failing to attend a drug treatment program. You may have heard the term “mass incarceration” — this idea that the U.S. locks up more people than any country in the world. But lately, scholars and activists have also been talking about “mass supervision.” There are almost two million people in U.S. prisons, but there are almost four million people on probation or parole. In Part 5 of "Violation," we examine what life is like for the millions of people on parole in the U.S., and describe what happened when Jacob Wideman was on parole. Jake didn’t know it when he was first released, but his freedom would only last nine months — and there were people on the outside working to put him back inside.
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