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Univ. of San Diego School of Law

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Monday, June 16, 2008

Ending a cycle of crime: Ex-cons get a helping hand

A new approach to parole in Arizona began with thousands of colored pushpins and a large state map. In 2003, prison officials set out to find new ways to keep released inmates from going back behind bars. So they began to map where the more than 30,000 Arizona inmates had lived before they were locked up and where they might return.

What they found were a handful of hot spots around the state, including south Phoenix - home to about 1 percent of the state's population but nearly 6.5 percent of state prisoners. The authorities reasoned that if they started in one ZIP code area, they could help stop the cycle of incarceration and slow soaring criminal-justice costs. They decided to revisit the old parole rules and find ways to change lives.

"Once you realize that a lot of people come back to a certain place, then every traditional rule about community supervision has to be challenged, and many we flat-out tossed away," explained Dora Schriro, director of the Arizona Department of Corrections. "It is not about us making it easier. It is about us getting smarter about what is necessary to succeed on supervision."

Last year, the Department of Corrections launched the Legacy Project, a pilot program in south Phoenix's 85041 ZIP code area, changing the way that parole officers supervise recently released prisoners. It was followed by a similar initiative, Maricopa County's 85041 Project, which has changed how people are supervised while on probation. [Mark Godsey]

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