July 18, 2017: “LIFE ON PAROLE”

FRONTLINE gives us a first person perspective of life on parole.

TRANSCRIPT

> IT'S FACT THAT AROUND HALF OF ALL INMATES THAT ARE GRANTED PAROLE WILL END UP BACK BEHIND BARS.

VIOLATING THE TERMS OF RELEASE IS COMMON.

BUT THERE'S AN EFFORT ACROSS THE NATION TO CHANGE THE PAROLE SYSTEM WITH THE AIM OF LOWERING REOFFENDING RATES AND REDUCE THE PRISON PROP LAGS.

TONIGHT, A NEW FRONTLINE SPECIAL, IN PARTNERSHIP WITH 'THE NEW YORK TIMES' TAKES US TO CONNECTICUT AND EXAMINES THE STATE'S EFFORTS TO RETHINK PAROLE.

FEELS SO GOOD TO GET THESE OFF.

FREEDOM AT LAST.

SOME PEOPLE THING BEING ON PAROLE, YOU'RE FREE.

I'M BETTER OFF IN JAIL.

ONE STATE IS TRYING TO CHANGE THE WAY PAROLE WORKS.

IT NEEDS TO BE REIMAGINED.

SENDING THEM HOME AND EXPECTING THEM TO BE PERFECT.

MY LIFE IS PRETTY MUCH RUINED FOR THE NEXT [ BLEEP ] THREE YEARS.

WE'RE PLEASED TO WELCOME THE FILM'S DIRECTOR AND OSCAR-NOMINATED FILM MAKER MATTHEW O'NEIL TO THE PROGRAM.

WELCOME.

THANK YOU.

HOW DID YOU COME TO THIS PROJECT?

WHAT WAS THE STORY YOU WERE HOPING TO BE ABLE TO TELL?

THIS PROJECT BEGAN WITH A NUMBER OF COLLABORATORS.

'THE NEW YORK TIMES.'

FRONTLINE.

THE GROUP PURPLE STATES.

ALL WORKING TOGETHER TO TRY TO LOOK AT WHAT HAPPENS AFTER INCARCERATION.

WE ORIGINALLY STARTED FOLLOWING TEN PEOPLE IN THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT.

WE KNEW THAT THE STATE WAS A STATE WHERE THE PRISON POPULATION WAS DROPPING.

THEY WERE IMPLEMENTING A NUMBER OF REFORMS TO TRY TO CHANGE THE WAY CORRECTIONS WORK.

WE WANTED TO SEE, WHAT ARE THE OBSTACLES.

THE CHALLENGES.

THE OPPORTUNITIES THAT PEOPLE FACE WHEN THEY EXIT INCARCERATION BECAUSE AS YOU KNOW, AND I KNOW, THE RECIDIVISM NUMBERS, THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE WHO RETURN ARE SO HIGH.

AS WE STARTED THIS PROJECT, WE REALIZED HOW INTEGRAL THE PAROLE RELATIONSHIP IS.

FOR SO MANY PEOPLE WHO ARE GETTING OUT OF INCARCERATION.

I THINK THAT WAS ONE OF THE THINGS THAT WAS SO INTERESTING ABOUT THE FILM.

A LOT OF PEOPLE THINK OF PAROLE AS, IT'S JUST A PORTION OF THE PENAL SYSTEM.

IT PLAYS A MUCH BIGGER PART IN THE NATIONAL SCOPE OF THIS.

MOST PEOPLE WHO ARE GETTING OUT OF PRISON HAVE SOME SORT OF PAROLE OBLIGATION.

YOU EXPAND IT TO SUPERVISION IN THE COMMUNITY.

PAROLE AND PROBATION, ALMOST 2 MILLION PEOPLE ARE INCARCERATED IN THE UNITED STATES.

THERE ARE ALMOST 4.7 MILLION PEOPLE BEING SUPERVISED IN THE COMMUNITY.

THERE WAS A PEW STUDY THAT SAYS 1 IN 31 AMERICANS ARE IN SOME SORT OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE SUPERVISION.

THE FILM DOES GREAT WORK EXPLAINING THE CONDITIONS PEOPLE ARE LIVING UNDER.

GIVE US A SENSE OF WHAT PAROLE MEANS ONCE YOU'RE RELEASED FROM PRISON.

A PERIOD OF PAROLE, YOU HAVE AN OBLIGATION TO REPORT TO A PAROLE OFFICER AND OBEY TO SOME WHAT STRICT REGULATIONS.

NO POLICE CONTACT.

TO THINGS THAT CAN SEEM OBVIOUS RELATED TO CRIME, LIKE YOU CAN'T HAVE AN INTERACTION WITH THE VICTIM OF YOUR CRIME OR VISIT THE PREMISES OF THE PLACE YOU WERE CONVICTED OF BURGLARIZING.

OTHER THINGS MIGHT BE SURPRISING.

YOU CAN'T DRINK ALCOHOL AS AN ADULT IN MANY CASES.

YOU MIGHT HAVE A CURFEW WHILE YOU'RE ON PAROLE.

DEPENDING ON WHERE YOU LIVE, THE PAROLE OFFICER HAS GREAT DEAL OF DISCORRECTION OVER ALL THE DECISIONS YOU MAKE IN YOUR LIFE.

IF YOU'RE AT A HALFWAY HOUSE, THE STAFF THERE HAS DISCRETION.

THAT'S INTERESTING.

A LOT OF THE THINGS YOU JUST LISTED OUT ARE THE KIND OF THINGS SAY, IF A COMMUNITY WAS GOING TO BE VOTING, SOMEBODY WAS RUNNING, LISTEN, I'M GOING TO MAKE PAROLE, PEOPLE ADHERE TO CERTAIN STANDARDS.

THEY SOUND REASONABLE.

IT BECOMES CLEAR IN THE FILM HOW THERE -- HOW PEOPLE CAN NEED TO STEP OVER THE LINE OR UNINTENTIONALLY STEP OVER THE LINE.

THERE'S GRAY AREA IN TERMS OF BLACK AND WHITE.

OR CONSTANTLY BEING IN FEAR OF COMING OVER THE LINE.

I WAS RUNNING TEN MINUTES LATE COMING HERE.

THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN A VIOLATION OF MY PAROLE.

OR COULD BE CONCEIVED OF THAT WAY.

THAT'S A CHALLENGE YOU SEE PLAY OUT IN THE RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN THE PAROLE OFFICERS AND THE PAROLEES.

THE OFFICERS HAVE A DIFFICULT JOB.

THEY'RE NOT JUST LAW ENFORCEMENT.

THEY'RE SOCIAL WORKERS.

DRUG AND ALCOHOL COUNSELORS.

YET THESE STIPULATIONS EXIST THAT OFTEN FROM DAY ONE THE PAROLEES ARE NOT FULLY HONEST WITH THEIR PAROLE OFFICERS BECAUSE THEY'RE AFRAID OF GOING BACK TO JAIL.

OF GOING BACK TO PRISON.

AND THEY'RE NOT IN FULL DISCLOSURE OF WHAT THEY'RE DOING BECAUSE SO MUCH OF DAY-TO-DAY LIFE WOULD BE A TECHNICAL VIOLATION.

AFRAID OF GOING BACK THE JAIL, YET, AT THE SAME TIME, THERE WERE NUMEROUS TIMES THROUGHOUT THE FILM WHERE SOME OF THE PAROLEES SAID IT WOULD BE EASIER TO GO BACK TO JAIL.

OVER AND OVER AGAIN, PEOPLE SAID JAIL OR PRISON WAS EASIER.

I THINK PRISON, FOR ALL OF ITS FAILINGS AND DIFFICULTIES, IS A VERY KNOWN QUANTITY.

YOU FOE WHAT TIME BREAKFAST IS GOING TO BE SERVED.

YOU KNOW MORE OR LESS WHAT IS GOING TO BE A SKED OF YOU.

WHEN YOU'RE ON PAROLE, YOU'RE NAVIGATING ALL THE CHALLENGES OF LIFER THAT WE ALL NAVIGATE.

ON TOP OF THAT, YOU HAVE THESE EXTRA STIPULATIONS.

ONE OF THE OTHER THINGS I THOUGHT WAS INTERESTING WAS THE DISCONNECT THERE SEEMED TO BE BETWEEN THE PAROLEES AND THE PAROLE OFFICERS.

THERE WAS A LACK OF UNDERSTANDING BETWEEN THE TWO.

COULD A FILLING LIKE THIS HELP BRIDGE THE GAP?

AND MAKE IT CLEAR WHERE BOTH SIDES ARE COMING FROM?

I HOPE SO.

I HOPE PEOPLE ARE ABLE TO GET INSIDE THE PERSPECTIVE OF PAROLE OFFICERS AND PAROLEES.

WHAT WE FOUND TIME AND TIME AGAIN WHEN THE RELATIONSHIP WAS A MUTUALLY CONSTRUCTIVE ONE, THEY WERE OFTEN LOOKING RIGHT PAST EACH OTHER.

NEVER REALLY UNDERSTOOD THE ROLE THAT THE OTHER ONE WAS PLAYING.

AND IT'S BECAUSE -- THE PAROLEE IS SO FOCUSED ON THEIR OWN LIFE.

THE PAROLE OFFICER IS OFTEN MANAGING DOZENS OF PAROLEES.

THERE'S THIS FUNDAMENTAL TENSION I THINK FOR PAROLE OFFICERS, RIGHT?

IF WHOEVER THEY'RE MANAGING SUCCEEDS, THEY'RE UNLIKELY TO GET AN ATTA BOY AND A CLAP ON THE BACK.

IF THAT PERSON GOES OUT AND COMMITS A CRIME OR HITS THE PUBLIC IMAGINATION, THE QUESTION WILL BE, DIDN'T HE HAVE A PAROLE OFFICER?

THAT COMES UP A LOT.

I THINK THERE'S A LOT OF TENSIONS.

JUST TO WRAP UP, FINAL QUESTION.

CONNECTICUT IS TAKING THESE STEPS TO TRY TO REDUCE ITS DO YOU SEE ACCOUNT KTS AS PERHAPS A ROLE MODEL FOR WHAT OTHER STATES COULD BE TRYING TO DO IN TERMS OF MANAGING THE PAROLE OPERATION?

SURE PIP THINK CONNECTICUT IS ONE OF A NUMBER OF STATES NOT JUST THE QUOTE BLUE STATES.

THERE ARE BLUE AND RED STATES TRYING TO REFORM THE WAY THAT THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM WORKS.

I THINK WE SHOULD TAKE A CLOSE LOOK WHAT CONNECTICUT IS DOING.

AND ESPECIALLY THEIR COMMITMENT TO TRANSPARENCY AND ALLOWING THE PUBLIC TO LOOK AT AND TRY TO UNDERSTAND WHAT'S HAPPENING ON PAROLE AND IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE.

LISTEN, MATTHEW, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR TAKING THE TIME TO JOIN US AND MAKING THIS AMAZING FILM.

THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.

FRONTLINE'S LIFE ON PAROLE AIRS TONTS AT 10:00 P.M.

HEAD ON OVER TO PBS.ORG FOR MORE.

> IF YOU CAN'T GET TO CUBE BARKS WE NOW HAVE YOUR TICKET TO EXPLORE THE HEART OF CUBA'S MAGICAL CAPITAL CITY.

A NEW DOCUMENTARY, 'WEEKEND IN HAVANA' HOSTED BY JEFFREY BEHR ALLOWS PEOPLE TO DISCOVER IT.

AN ISLAND I HAD BEEN TOLD WAS FROZEN IN TIME.

SIT REALLY?

ONCE AMERICA'S TROPICAL PLAYGROUND, CUBA HAS BEEN A MYSTERY TO MOST AMERICANS FOR MORE THAN HALF A CENTURY.

OH, YEAH, LOOK THAT.

OLD TRADITIONS.

NEW OPPORTUNITIES.

IT'S ONE OF A KIND.

WE'RE MORE SENSUAL.

JOURNEY WITH ME.

YOU'LL SEE CUBA IN A WHOLE NEW WAY.

THE HOST OF WEEKEND IN HAVANA, JEFFREY BEHR, JOINS ME NOW.

NICE TO SEE YOU.

GREAT TO BE HERE.

DECISION TO GO TO HAVANA.

YOU HAD SUCH GREAT HISTORY OF EXPLORING PLACES, A LOT IN CHICAGO, WHERE YOU ARE.

OTHER PLACES AROUND THE COUNTRY.

WHAT, THEN, DREW YOU TO HAVANA?

I THINK, YOU KNOW, THE HALLMARK OF THE WORK THAT I HAVE DONE HAS ALWAYS BEEN THE -- WHAT I CALL THE 'I NEVER KNEW THAT' PHENOMENON.

YOU HAVE HEARD OF IT ALL YOUR LIFE.

BUT, OH, YOU DON'T REALLY KNOW WHAT THE STORY IS.

AND I THINK THE EPITOME OF THAT IS PROBABLY HAVANA.

THERE'S SO MUCH MYSTERY.

SURROUNDING IT.

SO THIS WAS JUST LIKE A GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY.

WHAT EXPECTATIONS DID YOU HAVE?

YOU KNOW, I -- I CAN ALMOST TALK ABOUT THAT ON LIKE WHAT WOULD SEEM LIKE A SURFACE LEVEL.

THERE ARE CLICHES WE HERE ABOUT CUBA.

90 MILES FROM FLORIDA BUT WORLDS AWAY.

THE 1940s CARS.

THERE ARE ALL THE CLICHES.

AND, YOU KNOW, THAT STUFF IS BASICALLY TRUE.

I MEAN, THE CITY IS KIND OF CRUMBLING.

IT IS WORLDS AWAY, THOUGH IT'S 90 MILES FROM FLORIDA.

'50s CARS ARE UBIQUITOUS.

IT IS SUCH A COMPLEX PLACE.

AND THAT WAS WHAT REALLY -- WHAT REALLY SURPRISED ME.

COMPLEX HOW?

EVERYWHERE YOU LOOK, YOU JUST HAVE QUESTIONS ABOUT THINGS.

FOR EXAMPLE, IT'S A COMMUNIST GOVERNMENT.

BUT IT SEEMS KIND OF ENTREPRENEURIAL.

PEOPLE HAVE STATE SALARIES.

BUT THEY COULDN'T POSSIBY BE LIVING ON -- ON THEIR STATE SALARIES.

DO THEY HAVE A BANK ACCOUNT?

DO DAY KEEP THE MONEY IN THEIR MATTRESS?

THE GOVERNMENT KNOWS PEOPLE ARE WORKING OUTSIDE OF THE APPROVED GOVERNMENT-SANCTIONED SYSTEM.

HOW DOES THAT WORK?

AND -- AND I ACTUALLY MENTIONED TO ONE OF OUR LOCAL CREW, ONE OF THE FILM CREW IN HAVANA WHO LIVES THERE, WHO IS IN HIS 50s.

I HAVE LIVED HERE 54 YEARS, I DON'T UNDERSTAND IT.

YOU'RE ACCOMPANIED BY THREE LOCALS.

A FLAMENCO DANCER.

A JAZZ PIANIST.

AND AN ARCHITECT.

WHAT WAS THE IDEA BEHIND HAVING THEM BE PART OF THIS?

AND WHY THAT SELECTION OF DIFFERENT BACKGROUNDS?

IT'S THE PERFECT ARRAY.

BECAUSE REALLY, AGAIN, THERE'S A SURFACE AND THEN THERE'S BELOW THE SURFACE.

ON THE SURFACE, THIS IS NOT A POLITICAL SHOW.

IT'S -- WE'RE NOT DELVING INTO THE COMPLEX POLITICAL SITUATION.

IT'S A PEOPLE TO PEOPLE KIND OF SHOW.

ABOUT THE HUMAN RELATIONSHIPS AND THE CULTURE OF CUBA.

I THINK THE BIG THREE ARE THE I AMAZING ARCHITECTURE.

IT'S LIKE A MUSEUM OF HISTORIC ARCHITECTURE AND STYLES.

THAT IS KIND OF MY SPECIALTY.

AND DANIELLE, THE ARCHITECT IN THE STORY.

AND JUAN IS WONDERFUL.

THE MUSIC OF CUBA.

THE AFRO-CUBAN MUSIC IS SUCH A DEEP PART OF THE TRADITION THERE.

AND THE DANCER SAID, EVERY CUBAN IS A DANCER.

SHE SAID, WHEN YOU GO ANYWHERE, OUTSIDE OF CUBA, AND YOU'RE IN A CLUB, OR A RESTAURANT AND MUSIC IS PLAYING, YOU CAN SPOT THE CUBANS IN THE AUDIENCE BECAUSE OF THE WAY THEY'RE MOVING.

ON THE SURFACE, YOU KNOW, IT -- THAT CAPTURES WHAT WE UNDERSTAND ABOUT CUBA OR THE ESSENCE OF CUBA.

EACH ONE OF THESE PEOPLE TOOK ME TO A DEEPER LEVEL.

ROBERTO, THE JAZZ PIANO PLAYER IS AFRO-CUBAN.

HE'S A SANTERIA PRIEST.

THE RELIGION CREATED TO WORSHIP THE AFRICAN DEITIES.

WE WENT OUT TO A SLAVE PLANTATION IN A DONKEY CART WITH ROBERTO.

HERE'S THIS BIG TREE.

A SACRED TREE IN THEIR CULTURE.

HERE'S THESE TWO SANTERIAS UNDER THE TREE CHANTING.

ROBERTO JOINED THEM TO CHANT.

IRENE IS NOT ONLY A DANCER.

SHE WALKED ME THROUGH THE STREETS OF HAVANA AT NIGHT.

IT WAS JUST TEEMING WITH PEOPLE.

WE LITERALLY, LITERALLY DANCED IN THE STREETS.

I HAVE ALWAYS BEEN SUCH FAN OF YOUR WORK.

THIS IS REALLY A MARVELOUS LOOK AT THIS MYSTERIOUS PLACE.

THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

THE SIGHTS.

THE SOUNDS.

THE FEEL OF IT.

YOU CAPTURED IT ALL.

NOT SURPRISING.

AND OUR PRODUCER-DIRECTOR LEO DESERVES A HUGE AMOUNT OF CREDIT.

JEFFREY, AS ALWAYS.

LOOKING FORWARD TO YOUR NEXT PROJECT.

BE WELL.

THANK YOU.

THANK YOU.

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