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Brennan Center Study Shows Parole Fees Undercut Reentry

Maryland’s parole supervision fee raises little state revenue, while burdening parolees with debt they cannot pay.

March 23, 2009

For Immediate Release:

: Jeanine Plant-Chirlin, 212–998–6289
Susan Lehman, 212–998–6318

Maryland’s Parole Supervision Fee Raises Little State Revenue

Maryland – Maryland’s $40-per-month parole fee undermines public safety by burdening parolees with debt they cannot pay, according to a report released today by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. Maryland’s Parole Supervision Fee: A Barrier to Reentry argues that parole fees should be taken off the books and that saddling parolees with debt is a serious barrier to successful reentry into society.

Maryland implemented the parole supervision fee two decades ago to boost state revenues, but the fee is often uncollectible because parolees are unemployed and can’t afford it. Only one-quarter of parolees have full-time jobs at the start of their parole, and just one-third are fully employed at the end. Consequently, only 17 percent of supervision fees get paid. Meanwhile, parole officers say that enforcing the fee distracts them from the more important task of helping parolees find jobs.

“The focus of parole should be preventing recidivism, not filling state coffers,” says Rebekah Diller, report co-author and Deputy Director of the Brennan Center’s Justice Program. “The fee burdens an already struggling population, undercuts Maryland’s efforts to promote successful reentry, and is financially inefficient.”

Many parolees also have trouble paying the supervision fee on time, because they also pay for child support, restitution, and drug testing. Some methods used to enforce the fee ruin credit, and persistent collection letters threaten parolees with returning to prison.

The Brennan Center report calls for the Maryland Legislature to join Virginia by taking the parole supervision fee off the books. Maryland’s Parole Supervision Fee: A Barrier to Reentry recommends six steps that the four state bodies involved in the implementation and collection of the parole supervision fee could undertake to spend state dollars better and to facilitate the reentry into society of the many parolees who cannot pay.

For more information or to arrange an interview with Rebekah Diller, please contact Jeanine Plant-Chirlin at 212–998–6289 or or contact Susan Lehman at 212–998–6318 or at

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