Upcoming Event

Vincent Schiraldi at Harvard Book Store


Mass Supervision:
Probation, Parole, and the
Illusion of Safety and Freedom

in conversation with SANDRA SUSAN SMITH


October 23, 2023
7:00 PM ET


Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138


This event is free; no tickets are required.

Harvard Book Store welcomes VINCENT SCHIRALDI—former commissioner of the New York City Department of Probation—for a discussion of his new book Mass Supervision: Probation, Parole, and the Illusion of Safety and Freedom. He will be joined in conversation by SANDRA SUSAN SMITH—Daniel and Florence Guggenheim Professor of Criminal Justice and Faculty Director of the Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management.

About Mass Supervision

We’ve heard a lot in recent years about the nearly 2.1 million people incarcerated in American prisons and jails. But what about the approximately 4 million more who are on probation and parole—monitored by the state at great expense and at risk of being sent to prison at the whim of a probation or parole officer for the least imaginable infraction?

Vincent Schiraldi was New York City probation commissioner under Mayor Bloomberg, supervising a system charged with monitoring 30,000 people on a daily basis. In Mass Supervision, he combines firsthand experience with deep research on the inadequately explored practices of probation and parole, to illustrate how these forms of state supervision have strayed from their original goal of providing constructive and rehabilitative alternatives to prison. They have become instead, Schiraldi argues, a “recidivism trap” for people trying to lead productive lives in the wake of a criminal conviction.

Schiraldi offers the first full and up-to-date account of these two key aspects of our criminal justice system, showing that these practices increase incarceration, have little impact on crime rates, and needlessly disrupt countless lives. Ultimately, he argues that they should be dramatically downsized or even abolished completely.

Praise for Mass Supervision

“Schiraldi combines the rare gifts of a memoirist and a reformer calling our attention to the mass casualties of our broken probation and parole systems. On the front lines for decades, no one is in a better position to help shrink and ultimately dismantle the problem of mass supervision than he is. Anyone in search of sanity and solutions must read this book.” —Khalil Gibran Muhammad, professor at Harvard Kennedy School and the Radcliffe Institute

“With Mass Supervision, Schiraldi asks us all to consider what it means to be on ‘papers,’ that colloquial term for being under state supervision. Schiraldi knows what the rest of us don’t about probation or parole—and in this book he reveals it: from its history to all its present disasters. But more than this, Schiraldi offers a pathway forward, to less supervision and more freedom and more safety. That’s why this one matters.” —Reginald Dwayne Betts, founder and director, Freedom Reads, and author of Felon

“The iron grip of mass incarceration reaches far beyond the walls of American prisons and jails, and in Mass Supervision, Schiraldi spotlights poorly understood and operated systems of probation and parole. Schiraldi shines a light on how millions of Americans are surveilled and ‘supervised’ by the government in a way that neither respects their humanity nor leads to greater public safety. This paradigm-shifting look at an unexplored aspect of our criminal legal system is a must-read to make crucial changes in the name of justice.” —Piper Kerman, author of Orange Is the New Black

Mask Policy

Masks are encouraged but not required for this event.

Sandra Susan Smith
Sandra Susan Smith

Sandra Susan Smith

Sandra Susan Smith is the Daniel and Florence Guggenheim Professor of Criminal Justice and Faculty Director of the Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management. She is the Director of the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. She is also the Carol K. Pforzheimer Professor at the Radcliffe Institute. Smith's publications include Lone Pursuit: Distrust and Defensive Individualism among the Black Poor; The Criminal Justice System as a Labor Market Institution, co-edited with Jonathan Simon; and the forthcoming The Cultural Logics of Job-Matching Assistance. Smith, who holds an MA and Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Chicago and a B.A. in history-sociology from Columbia University, has been a visiting scholar at Stanford's Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences and at the Russell Sage Foundation.

Vincent Schiraldi
Vincent Schiraldi

Vincent Schiraldi

Vincent Schiraldi has served as commissioner of the New York City Department of Probation, commissioner of the New York City Department of Correction, and director of juvenile corrections in Washington, DC. He has also been a senior research fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School and co-founded the Columbia University Justice Lab as well as the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice and the Justice Policy Institute. He has written extensively for outlets ranging from the New York Times to The Marshall Project. He is currently Secretary of the Department of Juvenile Services in his home state of Maryland.

Photo Credit: Paulette Louissaint

Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

Walking from the Harvard Square T station: 2 minutes

As you exit the station, reverse your direction and walk east along Mass. Ave. in front of the Cambridge Savings Bank. Cross Dunster St. and proceed along Mass. Ave for three more blocks. You will pass Au Bon Pain, JP Licks, and TD Bank. Harvard Book Store is located at the corner of Mass. Ave. and Plympton St.

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