The recent Free Press series (9/30-10/2/2012) and its sensational headlines suggest that large numbers of released prisoners are roaming the streets assaulting and murdering citizens at will. Although this image is simply untrue, the MDOC has already slowed the grant of paroles and is returning more technical parole violators to prison.

The series began with a front-page headline blaring “Lax Controls Leave Ex-Cons Free to Kill.”

The title of the Sunday editorial was “Prisoner Releases, Dangerously Done.” Graphic descriptions were provided of particularly heart-wrenching crimes. The thesis throughout was that monitoring failures by the MDOC had permitted a wave of violent crimes by people under its supervision. No functional distinction was made between probationers and parolees.

It does not denigrate the tragedy of individual cases to place them in context. Policies affecting thousands of people and millions of dollars should depend on a realistic assessment of how likely it is that the average citizen will be a victim of a probationer or parolee. A number of questions are critical:

• How much risk are citizens actually at?

• How representative are the cases featured by the Free Press?

• What proportion of people under supervision commits murder?

• To what extent could changes in supervision and parole policies have prevented these crimes?

Read>> CAPPS Consensus Fall 2012