It’s a long story, but people have to hear it. In Pennsylvania probation often functions more as a Kafkaesque eternal punishment than as a tool to help return offenders to society.

By Charles R. Davis, Business Insider

Kevin has been in the system since he was a baby. His mother was unable to provide for him, so he was raised in foster care, and he spent his adolescence in a Philadelphia educational and treatment facility for young people with behavioral issues — a facility that declared bankruptcy in 2016 after a resident was killed there during a struggle with staff.

Probation can be a life sentence

He was still a teenager when, a year after his school went under, he graduated to a new form of state supervision. At the age of 18, Kevin — Insider is using a pseudonym at the request of his attorney — got into an altercation with police in Sharon Hill, a Philadelphia suburb, that resulted in him receiving a sentence of up to 23 months of incarceration and a year of probation. While he was incarcerated, he was accused of ripping his mattress and stuffing his shirt in a jail toilet. He was charged with institutional vandalism and criminal mischief and received two more years of probation.

Kevin spent about two months behind bars over those incidents. But probation has meant that, in order to avoid a return, he has to comply with rules that are imposed and enforced at the discretion of a judge and probation officer. For example, smoking marijuana, which has been decriminalized in Philly, is considered a technical violation, so testing positive for it can land someone on probation back in jail.

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