How New Legislation Can Change Parole: Tanya and a Predatory Parole System

How New Legislation Can Change Parole: Tanya and a Predatory Parole System

05/20/2021

In honor of Fortune’s efforts to promote the rights and fair treatment of people with histories of justice involvement, Fortune launched the David Rothenberg Center for Public Policy (DRCPP)  in 2007. Since then, DRCPP has advocated for legislation that promotes effective program models for people with criminal justice backgrounds and aimto change laws and policies that prevent those with justice involvement from successfully reentering their communities.  

Fortune’s 2021 Legislative Priorities reflect this overarching mission and include crucial reform bills such as the End Predatory Court Fees Act, the Eliminate Parole & Probation Fees Bill and the Less is More Act.  

Fortune is honored to amplify the advocacy work of Tanya Pierce, who began volunteering at the Progressive Sister’s Network after coming home from federal prison. Tanya’s story demonstrates the importance of advocating for reform to reduce or eliminate the often-prohibitive fees and fines associated with justice involvement. She discussed her experience with restitution and forfeiture orders within the federal system, and described these lofty fees and fines as modern-day debtors’ prison.”

"You're finished [with your sentence], you have these enormous [sums] and that's how they [continue to] sentence us. It's just an extension of the prosecution,” said Tanya.

Tanya also spoke about how the fees and fines related to justice involvement can be quite confusing, and there is little to no guidance or clarity on how these amounts are calculated“Most of us have no knowledge of even where these figures come from.”  

Tanya’s firsthand knowledge of the financial burden justice involvement can create helps to demonstrate why initiatives such as the End Predatory Court Fees Act and the bill to Eliminate Parole & Probation Fees are so importantThe End Predatory Court Fees Act would eliminate court fees, mandatory minimum fines and incarceration solely based on unpaid fees and fines. The bill to Eliminate Parole and Probation Fees aims to eliminate similar fines and fees accrued through the parole and probation system. 

Tanya also acknowledges the gender-specific concerns of women returning to their communities and spoke about the distinct assumptions made about women coming home and how their roles can differ from those of men.

“Women leave and come back in the same category that they left. They left as mothers, they left as caregivers of elder loved ones, they left as the person who was financially taking care of their family. They are expected to come right back there.”

Women and mothers with justice histories continue to face significant barriers to their success Women encounter the unique struggle of balancing financial and familial expectations with the requirements of parole. A mother may miss a meeting with a parole officer if she is not able to secure childcare or may be unable to pay fees associated with supervision because of other expensive needs for their children. These infractions, however, can be met with reincarceration. This creates additional, constant stress for women as they navigate their reentry.  

The Less is More Act would eliminate incarceration as punishment for most technical parole violations. Instead, under this bill, parolees would be issued a notice and a speedy hearing to review their case,  giving women and mothers sentenced to parole a better chance to continue caring for their families and striving for success throughout their reentry journey.  

You can learn more about Fortune’s legislative efforts through the work of DRCPP here. 

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