Supervised Chaos.

AuthorHumphreys, Keith
PositionThe Second Chance Club: Hardship and Hope After Prison - Book review

The Second Chance Club: Hardship and Hope after Prison

by Jason Hardy

Simon & Schuster, 287 pp.

Underfunded parole and probation departments are the weakest links in the criminal justice system. If we don't strengthen them, the decarceration movement will falter.

The number of people on probation or parole in the United States is roughly double the number of people behind bars. Yet a quick search on Amazon reveals that the number of books about incarceration exceeds the number of books about probation by more than tenfold. That imbalance matters. If we don't provide adequate services for probationers and parolees, we will fail to build on the recent trend of modest decarceration. Jason Hardy helps rectify this imbalance with The Second Chance Club, a thoughtful account of his work at the New Orleans Department of Probation and Parole ("P&P" in the local argot).

In his agreeably unpretentious style, Hardy introduces himself as a failed former public school teacher, failed former novelist, and currently failing JCPenney watch salesman, who aspires to a more meaningful and remunerative career. Disgusted by mass incarceration, he responds to an advertisement for a position at P&P, which he gets simply because the desperate agency assumes that he can leave his current job without giving two weeks' notice. During training he learns that virtually everyone else, like himself, has already washed out from other occupations. Their instructors make it clear that the department is so short of officers they will bend over backward to make sure everyone passes the training course.

Hardy's training requires him to memorize "obscure Louisiana statutes like Theft of an alligator" and provides hours of instruction on how to put on handcuffs and fire a gun. As his book later makes clear, his training did not provide him with the essentials of effective community supervision, such as skills in counseling and in navigating the social welfare bureaucracy, nor did it offer thorough knowledge of addiction and behavior change principles.

Despite their insufficient training, Hardy is surprised to discover that his fellow officers are generally dedicated and even, at times, idealistic. With admirable candor, he immediately surrenders any delusions of being a savior, recognizing that P&P's challenges are not produced by the characteristics of its officers so much as the rules under which they work. These structural challenges become clear on Hardy's first day at work...

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