A rapper that I’ve never heard of made the news by being in prison. It’s not what you think. Famous people from entertainment and sports were coming to aid in his cause. He had been serving a 10-year probation and was sent to prison for a technical violation. He had apparently been charged for an infraction of the motor vehicle code involving a motorcycle. The charges were dropped but the judge still sent him to prison against the recommendation of the prosecutor.
I’ve met a number of people who were in the same boat. Committing a crime while on probation or parole is a violation of its terms and even if you weren’t in prison before as part of your original case you can still end up there. The problem is that you don’t have to actually be convicted, just having police contact is enough to set things in motion.
To address the parole violation situation in Michigan, instead of sending parole violators back to Quarantine they are sent to the Parole Reentry Center in Detroit, a former prison. Your parole officer can take you there directly while you await a hearing with the parole board or a judge. The problem is like the rapper you can be sent to prison for up to the maximum length of your remaining sentence on a technicality. While on parole or probation you are considered guilty until proven innocent and you are not subject to due process. This means that they can do whatever they want and you have no legal recourse.
Now it is not as bad as it used to be. There have been significant changes made to reduce the number of parole violators being sent back to prison. It is expensive to house them and does not address the underlying causes of recidivism. Now things like substance abuse counseling, restriction to approved activities or even house arrest may be used. In the case of the rapper it was the judge herself that chose to put him behind bars. Sure, he had a poor track record with a number of previous violations but this time was without merit. It took a great public outcry to get him released. What about the others that don’t have such powerful allies? It is clear that the system both in Michigan and nationally is broken when someone like a judge or parole board member can defy counsel or the regulations to impose a punishment. If anyone else was to do this they would be called a vigilante and themselves be subject to punishment. The difference being that they would get due process.