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July 17, 2023

"At the Intersection of Probation and Jail Reduction Efforts"

The title of this post is the title of this lengthy new report from the Urban Institute.  The report's executive summary starts this way to provide an overview of the work:

Probation violations contribute significantly to rising jail populations in the United States: 33 percent of all people incarcerated in jails were arrested while on probation, and 27 percent of the people in jails for probation violations were incarcerated for technical violations alone (Phelps 2017).  Therefore, many jurisdictions across the country have implemented strategies to reduce jail incarceration for people on probation (though research on the efficacy of these strategies is limited).  Pima County, Arizona, has made reforms to address probation-related drivers of jail incarceration through its participation in the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge (SJC), including the strengthening of the county’s transitional housing support, which was intended to provide short-term housing options for people experiencing housing instability.  To better understand efforts to reduce the jail population in Pima County, particularly those designed for probation populations, the Urban Institute conducted a study in partnership with the county’s Adult Probation Department.  This study focuses on describing probation pathways to jail incarceration and system-level trends in jail incarceration for people on probation in Pima County, as well as the effects of providing transitional housing support to people on probation, particularly in terms of jail use.

Although research on the prevalence of housing instability among people on probation is limited, housing instability has been found to be associated with an increased risk of criminal legal system involvement (Brown et al. 2022; Cho 2004; Metraux, Roman, and Cho 2007).  This can be particularly salient among people serving probation, who are required to report and maintain a valid address as a probation condition, a violation of which can result in jail incarceration.  Transitional housing support in Pima County, therefore, is an important strategy to study when assessing probation-to-jail pathways.

In this study, we (1) collected and analyzed administrative data, including charge-level data on all people on probation from the Arizona Administrative Offices of the Courts, individual-level data on people who received transitional housing support from the Pima County Adult Probation Department (APD), and data on jail bookings from the CUNY Institute for State and Local Governance (ISLG); (2) interviewed 30 key stakeholders, including APD officers, representatives of committees leading Pima County’s probation reform and jail reduction efforts, and people on probation; (3) reviewed probation case files for 28 unique cases that involved people who received transitional housing support and that were representative of the period of interest; and (4) reviewed policy documents, including documents pertaining to agency-level policies related to probation conditions, jail use for people on probation, supervision guidelines for officers, and publicly available data reports and qualitative reports on Pima County’s jail reduction efforts and housing support programs.  The overall study period spanned from 2015 to 2023, though different data sources spanned different periods.

July 17, 2023 at 09:10 PM | Permalink


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