AuthorLaw, Victoria

In 2007, Derek Singletary was twenty-two years old and rebuilding his life after being incarcerated for a drug charge.

He had enrolled in vocational school and was hoping to join the carpenters' union.

"I wasn't running the streets," he recalls in an interview with The Progressive. "I was focused on doing the things I needed to do for myself legally."

Then, in spring of that year, Singletary was fifteen to twenty minutes late returning to his home in Syracuse, New York, violating the 9 p.m. curfew set by the terms of his parole. He was arrested and imprisoned for ninety days.

Those ninety days uprooted his entire life--and future plans.

"I didn't want to try anymore," Singletary says. "I didn't feel like trying to fit into society was the right thing for me, especially not when running the streets would provide [me] with money in my pocket and more or less result in the same fate. I couldn't justify doing things legally if I was still being punished [for violating curfew] as if I had broken the law."

Singletary was arrested again in 2010 and sentenced to twenty years in prison for manslaughter. Looking back on that night, Singletary muses, "Who knows where I would be if I would've been able to get into the carpenters' union? I seem to be getting it right now, I could've gotten it right then."

In 2012, shortly after she was paroled after twenty-seven years at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility in Bedford Hills, New York, for kidnapping and murder, Donna Hylton was threatened with the same disruption. She had been approved to live in Providence House, in nearby New Rochelle, which provides transitional housing for women and children. Soon after settling in, she visited her adoptive parents. It was the first time she saw or spoke with them since her incarceration. Throughout her childhood, her parents had been abusive but, she tells The Progressive, during her imprisonment, she had matured, healed, and ultimately forgiven them.

Hylton decided to move in with her parents, which her parole officer, after some wrangling, approved. But when her parents again became abusive, she knew she had to leave. Her parole officer threatened to send Hylton back to prison on a parole violation if she did not find approved housing within twenty-four hours. Fortunately, Sister Mary Nerney, a nun who provided services to women at Bedford Hills, let Hylton move in with her, avoiding this fate.

Hylton's and Singletary's experiences are not unusual. Across the country, people on parole risk arrest and imprisonment for technical parole violations, such as missing an appointment with a parole officer, staying out past curfew, or changing residences. None are actual crimes, but for those on parole, they can lead to re-imprisonment.

Twenty-four states limit incarceration for technical parole violations. New York was not among them until recently. Before then, it had the nation's second-highest number, after Illinois, of parolees returned to prison for technical violations. These revocations have played a key role in keeping prisons packed.

Between 2014 and 2018, the number of people in New York City's jails dropped by 21 percent. The number of people jailed for technical violations, however, increased by 15 percent. Those jailed for technical parole violations are not eligible for bail or...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT