cover image Mass Supervision: Probation, Parole, and the Illusion of Safety and Freedom

Mass Supervision: Probation, Parole, and the Illusion of Safety and Freedom

Vincent Schiraldi. New Press, $28.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-620-97817-7

Former New York City Probation Commissioner Schiraldi debuts with a captivating account of the history and current state of criminal supervision in the U.S. Parole and probation were both created in the 19th century, the former as a way to grant early release to inmates who had displayed good behavior and the latter to keep convicted people out of prison altogether. Over the course of the 20th century, both morphed into a law enforcement tool of surveillance and a main cause of incarceration, according to Schiraldi, who notes that parole and probation violations now account for nearly half of all people entering prison in America. Schiarldi describes how people under criminal supervision experience it as a kind of torture due to the stress of constantly worrying about check-ins—some have even chosen to go back to prison instead of living with it—and much of the book details the negative impact mass surveillance has on the Black and brown communities it disproportionately targets. He focuses on Philadelphia, where a 2014 study showed that recidivism due to supervision violations was correlated to how vigorously people on probation were supervised, not the severity of their original crimes or misdemeanors. Drawing on his own attempts at reforming the system in New York (involving nonprofits to provide rehabilitative services for supervised individuals and drastically reducing the number of supervision violations issued), Schiraldi provides valuable insight for activists. This astute and accessible study illuminates a vital yet understudied topic. (Sept.)