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The Catch-22 of Probation Violations

June 21, 2024

According to Indiana statistics, roughly 26,000 Indiana inmates have been reincarcerated, not for committing a new crime, but rather for a "technical parole violation"—such as missing an appointment or failing a drug test. Some of these violations act like a trip-wire that sends reentrants back behind bars for seemingly minor infractions, actions that neither serve the public or the reentrant.

The Catch-22 of Probation Violations

In July, reentrant Adrian Garey will be brought to court for a technical violation of his probation. His crime was that he accepted a job offer from a church that also happened to have a community center. Because of his conviction, he cannot work at a community center (not that he was necessarily going to be doing that). So after accepting the job and informing his parole officer, his home was raided by seven Sheriff’s deputies and two probation officers, who went through his phone and other personal items, finding nothing of importance. Garey was shocked. His reentry story so far had been a story of redemption, and when he told his probation agent he had accepted the job he did not know he had committed a technical violation. 

Since his release from incarceration, Garey has lived at the Brookside church complex and gone to church there. He accepted Jesus as his savior well over a year ago at Brookside, and admittedly he thought “how wonderful it would be” to work there. 

According to Indiana statistics, roughly 26,000 Indiana inmates have been reincarcerated, not for committing a new crime, but rather for a "technical parole violation”—such as missing an appointment or failing a drug test while on parole or under community corrections. So what are some of these violations? It could be the reentrant has to stay in a limited geographic area—not leave the state, or abstain from alcohol, or stay away from people who have been convicted of a crime. Those and other parole limitations are probably reasonable and may actually help to make reentry successful. 

But, what about being reincarcerated for catch-22 offenses? Like failing to pay for the ankle monitor they are required to wear, but they don’t have any money because they’ve been laid off from a job or haven't found one? Back to prison. What about forgetting to report a change of address or having gotten a job? What about the local business owner who had a very successful second chance employee who he sent to Georgia for a job, causing the employee to miss some parole meetings. The reentrant was so focused on his work, he didn't know he was committing a violation. In the midst of his success, he was sent back to prison, his new life derailed by a probation agent who was afraid, or wouldn’t bother to consider the circumstances and help this man make a success of his future.

I understand that probation agents must walk a thin line. What if a reentrant is allowed some leniency, commits another crime, and someone is hurt? There is always that chance, and probation officers must use great wisdom to do all they can to promote a successful reentry, and at the same time, protect the public. But it is hard to understand why so many of these technical violations do neither of those things.

Here’s Adrian Garey, reporting to his probation agent the good news that he’s being hired by Brookside Church. He doesn’t know that since a community center is attached to Brookside, he can’t work there, he’s just happy. Could Garey’s probation officer have considered a more constructive path? What if he had just said: “Well Mr. Garey, I’m very sorry, you can't take that job, but let’s find you something else."

No seven deputies, no two probation officers, no raid. Just Grace,


Jobless reentrants, go to and search by location, or type of work.

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2nd Chance Indiana
241 West 38th Street, Indianapolis, IN 46208


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Our mission is to reduce recidivism and rebuild lives through the dignity of work.