What Statistics Can’t Explain About Life on Parole

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Erroll Brantley Jr., the subject of the FRONTLINE documentary "Life On Parole," at Hartford Correctional Center.

Erroll Brantley Jr., the subject of the FRONTLINE documentary "Life On Parole," at Hartford Correctional Center.

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July 17, 2017

No matter how you think criminals should be treated, Americans cherish due process.

But “due process” is a deceptively simple name. The criminal justice system — actually thousands of distinct state and local systems that process tens of thousands of people — is so finely grained that lawyers who work in it sometimes do not understand its subtleties and contortions, much less their clients or the public. Though statistics and data are necessary to show the consequences of such complexity, often the human stories behind these numbers can say so much more.

So when Matthew O’Neill, a documentary filmmaker at DCTV, and the PBS series FRONTLINE came to The New York Times with a proposal to follow people closely, for a year, as they got out of prison, we saw our chance. Connecticut, bravely, had agreed to give Matt unusual access — we ended up following 10 subjects, one of whom, Erroll Brantley Jr., is the subject of my article on today’s front page.

Governor Dannel Malloy of Connecticut has been outspoken on the reasons to give offenders more second chances, making the state a leader in preparing them to reenter society and — perhaps more important — a leader in the kind of self-evaluation needed for continued improvement. We wanted to know how the governor’s intentions had — and had not — trickled down into practice. The answer was yes, but unevenly.

Read the full version of this story by going to The Times’ website. The FRONTLINE documentary, Life On Parole, was produced in association with The Times and is available online now or on PBS starting Tues., July 18 at 10 p.m. EST.


Shaila Dewan, The New York Times

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