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June 19, 2019

"Confined and Costly: How Supervision Violations Are Filling Prisons and Burdening Budgets"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new dynamic online report from the Council of State Governments Justice Center. Everyone should check out the link to the report to see the dynamic features built therein, and here is some of the text from the report (with all caps from the original):

Probation and parole are designed to lower prison populations and help people succeed in the community. New data show they are having the opposite effect. Until now, national data regarding the impact of probation violations on prison populations have been unavailable, resulting in a lopsided focus on parole. The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center recently engaged corrections and community supervision leaders in 50 states to develop the first complete picture of how probation and parole violations make up states’ prison populations. The analysis revealed a startling reality.

45% OF STATE PRISON ADMISSIONS nationwide are due to violations of probation or parole for new offenses or technical violations.

Technical violations, such as missing appointments with supervision officers or failing drug tests, account for nearly 1/4 OF ALL STATE PRISON ADMISSIONS.

On any given day, 280,000 PEOPLE in prison — nearly 1 IN 4 — are incarcerated as a result of a supervision violation, costing states more than $9.3 BILLION ANNUALLY.

Technical supervision violations account for $2.8 BILLION of this total amount, and new offense supervision violations make up $6.5 BILLION. These figures do not account for the substantial local costs of keeping people in jail for supervision violations.

IN 13 STATES, MORE THAN 1 IN 3 PEOPLE in prison on any given day are there for a supervision violation.

IN 20 STATES, MORE THAN HALF OF PRISON ADMISSIONS are due to supervision violations.

Variation in these proportions across states is shaped by the overall size of each state’s supervision population, how violations are sanctioned, whether those sanctions are the result of incarceration paid for by the state or county, and how well state policy and funding enable probation and parole agencies to employ evidence-based practices to improve success on supervision.

June 19, 2019 at 04:11 PM | Permalink


This shows why it matters how people define a technical violation. In my state when we redid our probation statute, there was a lot of discussion about what qualified as a technical violation. The decision was that absconding -- i.e. not reporting and moving to avoid supervision -- was not a technical violation but was a significant violation. Technical violations would be more like failing to have employment or not completing a GED on time or associating with someone who happened to also be under supervision. Under our statute, probation could be revoked only for: 1) a new offense; 2) absconding; 3) possession of a weapon; 4) violating a "no contact w/victim" condition; or 5) if intermediate sanctions had been tried and failed. Treating everything other than a new offense as a technical violation blurs the line between serious violations which show that the defendant is not willing to be supervised and less serious violations which could be addressed by means other than incarceration.

Posted by: tmm | Jun 19, 2019 4:45:41 PM

My home state of Kentucky is drowning in jail and prison inmates, with no end in sight. About 65% of prison admissions are for people violating probation or parole. Kentucky is spending $650 million per year on incarcerating people. A significant part of the problem is the opiate drug epidemic in Kentucky, and the fact that there are not enough treatment beds. One of the dirty secrets of Kentucky's system is that all Class D felons (the lowest level of felon, whose sentences range from 1 to 5 years) are housed in 76 county jails (which have few programs or recreational facilities), not in real prisons. In the last 10 years, the number of jails in Kentucky has dropped to about 83 from 110 (10 counties were too small to afford their own jails), as counties close their old, outdated jails, which they cannot afford to repair or replace. Kentucky really needs a system of regional jails, rather than county jails. For most Kentucky counties, operating the jail is their single largest expense! The Kentucky DOC agreed as part of the settlement of a lawsuit brought about 10 years ago by 110 County Judge-Executives to house Class D felons in county jails, to help the counties afford to keep their jails open and functioning. Under KEntucky law, the cost of incarcerating pre-trial detainees is bourne by the county where they are held (assuming they aren't released on bond). Under state law, the cost of incarceration must be paid by the DOC, beginning the day after the defendant/inmate is sentenced by a Judge. The counties sued, asking to be reimbursed for the costs of incarceration for $110 million per year, since pre-trial jail credit is awarded against the sentence. The counties argued that because the pre-trial detention time was being credited against the sentence, the DOC must reimburse the counties for those costs, since the DOC must pay for incarceration under the sentence. The counties were seeking to go back 10 years, and wanted more than $1 billion from the Commonwealth. The settlement was that instead of paying money damages, the DOC would begin housing all of its Class D felons in county jails instead of in state prisons, and pay the counties a per diem for holding them, to help them afford to keep their jails open and operating. But spending 5 years in a cell in a county jail with no programming can drive a man crazy, and unfit to return to society upon release.

Posted by: James Gormley | Jun 20, 2019 9:28:15 AM

Once an inmate has served their full required time, there should be no more restrictions. If they are considered dangerous to society, they shouldn't have been released yet! In this community, it is all about the money & power to influence.

Posted by: LC in Texas | Jun 20, 2019 10:14:45 AM

This highlights the absurdity of nitpicking that is supervised release, probation, and parole. The policies fill the prisons and jails and cost a fortune and they consistantly destroy any possibility of stability in the felons that are supervised and violated.

The commenter from Kentucky highlights another problem with this: the insame war on drugs has no metastized to the opioid crisis. As usual it's all about jail and prison and never about help that would be sought if drugs were legalized. Those counties in Kentucky that cannot afford to maintain their jails would not need to maintain them if the only jailable crimes were those of violence. It's the drug stuff that clogs up their unaffordable jails.

Good that there are articles coming out on this, but the American people are addicted to punishment and vengeance, not retributive justice and humane treatment of its population, so we've still got a long way to go before major and meaningful changes are made.

Posted by: restless94110 | Jun 21, 2019 5:51:00 AM

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