Recidivism Explained?

Why is the repeat-offender rate so high in America? If the handling of my case by my probation officer is in any way typical, then it may provide a clue.

The trouble began before I was released. I planned on living with my parents when I got out of prison, until I could find employment and live on my own. My probation officer anticipated this months before my release-date, and visited my parents. He was shocked to find that they had recently purchased an IBM compatible computer, and he warned them that they must get rid of it before I moved in. They didn't have a modem, mind you, but as a notorious hacker I might easily fashion a modem out of ordinary household appliances.

This precaution was soon followed up by the probation officer drafting a warning letter, cautioning me that upon my release I must not be caught in possession of computer equipment or software, or of any form of identification, such as a driver license or social-security card.

It got even more interesting when I was released. When I reported to my P.O., he explained to me that, not only could I not use any computer, with or without a modem, but that I couldn't be in the same room as a computer. I had to look for a job with an employer that had no computer equipment on the premises. "Oh, and by the way, don't forget that you have to pay $65,000.00 in restitution in the next three years."

As an alternative to working at a minimum wage job for three years, with no hope of making substantial restitution, I asked if I could return to school to obtain a Bachelor's degree. With the no-computer restrictions, I obviously wasn't going to be giving anyone $65,000 any time soon, but with a degree I might actually be able to pay it back eventually. He agreed, and gave me permission to attend school full time.

I promptly enrolled at school. My probation officer promptly called me back in to his office and announced that he'd changed his mind. Forget school. Get a job at McDonalds.

So, lets see. No education. No career. And a sixty-five thousand dollar debt to pay. In short, a set- up for recidivism.(Coincidentally, this is the same probation office that handled the Mitnick case.)

Just think about this for a moment. An ex-con gets out of prison, only to be told that he cannot better himself by getting an education, and he cannot pursue the only career option that he's qualified for. How often does this happen? How many crimes are committed by people who have been deliberately denied any opportunity for rehabilitation, no matter how strongly they desire it?

My attorney filed a motion with the Court seeking to have these conditions changed. It was heard Monday, September 16th, in federal court in Los Angeles.

The motion was denied in full. Judge Real declined to second-guess the decisions of the probation officer, and specifically rejected the contention that I should allowed to obtain employment that allows access to computers without modems, noting, "Who knows what a computer can do?"

My new attorney, Jennifer Granick, is now working to appeal the computer restrictions to the Ninth Circuit. (Note: None of my co-conspirators have any such restrictions.)


You be The Judge

Cast your vote here. (For information on Kevin's crimes, see the other headings on the entrance page.)