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Probation and parole

On this page, the Prison Policy Initiative has curated all of the research about probation and parole that we know of. For research on other criminal justice topics, see our Research Library homepage.

  • Electronic Prisons: The Operation of Ankle Monitoring in the Criminal Legal System Kate Weisburd et al., September, 2021“Monitoring and its attendant rules significantly burden basic rights, liberty and dignity.”
  • (New) Compassionate Release Data Report: Calendar Years 2020 to 2021 United States Sentencing Commission, September, 2021(This report contains charts and tables describing the 20,565 motions for compassionate release decided upon by the courts in 2020 and the first half of 2021; of those, just over 3,600 or 17.5% were granted.)
  • Access in Brief: Health Care Needs of Adults Involved with the Criminal Justice System Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission, August, 2021“When compared to their peers with other forms of coverage, Medicaid beneficiaries under community supervision were more likely to have Hepatitis B or C, chronic bronchitis, or asthma.”
  • Probation and Parole in the United States, 2019 Bureau of Justice Statistics, July, 2021“The probation population has declined each year since 2007; The parole population increased or stayed relatively the same each year since 2014.”
  • Dead Man Waiting: A brief profile of deaths in Texas prisons among people approved for parole release Deitch, Michele, Destiny Moreno, and Alycia Welch, June, 2021“The data reveals that a large number of people die in Texas prisons each year even though the Parole Board had already determined that these individuals were worthy of parole and no longer presented a risk to public safety.”
  • Federal Justice Statistics, 2017-2018 Bureau of Justice Statistics, April, 2021“Of the 372,354 persons under some form of federal correctional control at fiscal year-end 2018, 60% were in secure confinement and 40% were under community supervision.”
  • The Enormous Cost of Parole Violations in New York The Justice Lab and The Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform, March, 2021“In 2019, New York's state and local governments collectively spent $683 million to incarcerate people on parole for rules violations, without evidence that this massive expenditure of resources meaningfully contributed to public safety.”
  • Punitive Surveillance Kate Weisburd, March, 2021“"Punitive surveillance" allows government officials and for-profit companies to track, record, search and analyze the location, biometric data and other meta-data of thousands of people on probation and parole, and is subject to almost no limitations.”
  • Applying Procedural Justice in Community Supervision Assessment of Pilot Testing in the Georgia Department of Community Supervision Urban Institute, March, 2021“The supervisee-level analyses found that supervisees from the training group had significantly fewer arrests, warrants, delinquent reports, and convictions than supervisees from the control group.”
  • Paid Your Debt to Society? Court-related Financial Obligations and Community Supervision during the First Year after Release from Prison Paywall :( Nathan W. Link, February, 2021“One's status as being under correctional supervision at release from prison leads to increased debt, which in turn increases the chance of remaining under supervision during the first year out.”
  • Parole boards approved fewer releases in 2020 than in 2019, despite the raging pandemic Prison Policy Initiative, February, 2021“In over half of the states we studied--Alabama, Iowa, Michigan, Montana, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina - between 2019 and 2020, there was either no change or a decrease in parole grant rates.”
  • Prisons and Penny-Pinching: Finding Budget Savings in the Time of COVID-19 Texas Public Policy Coalition, January, 2021“Even a small percentage reduction in the number of annual revocations can potentially yield millions in annual cost savings.”
  • States Can Shorten Probation and Protect Public Safety The Pew Charitable Trusts, November, 2020“Many people on supervision serve longer terms than are necessary for public safety.”
  • What you should know about halfway houses Prison Policy Initiative, September, 2020“Very little data about halfway houses has been available to the public, even though they are a major feature of the carceral system.”
  • More Work to Do: Analysis of Probation and Parole in the United States, 2017-2018 Kendra Bradner, Vincent Schiraldi, Natasha Mejia, and Evangeline Lopoo, August, 2020“From 2008 to 2018, the decline in the number of people on probation has failed to keep pace with the decline in arrests, resulting in an increase in the rate of probation, per arrest.”
  • More Work to Do: Analysis of Probation and Parole in the United States, 2017-2018 Kendra Bradner, Vincent Schiraldi, Natasha Mejia, and Evangeline Lopoo, August, 2020“From 2008 to 2018, the decline in the number of people on probation has failed to keep pace with the decline in arrests, resulting in an increase in the rate of probation, per arrest.”
  • Probation and Parole in the United States, 2017-2018 Bureau of Justice Statistics, August, 2020“An estimated 1 in 58 adults in the U.S. were under community supervision at year-end 2018.”
  • Revolving Doors: Examining the Effect of Race and Ethnicity on Discretionary Decision-Making in Parole Revocations Tri Keah S. Henry, August, 2020“Findings suggest that race/ethnicity significantly influences parole revocation outcomes.”
  • Correctional Populations in the United States, 2017-2018 Bureau of Justice Statistics, August, 2020“An estimated 6,410,000 persons were held in prisons or jails or were on probation or parole in 2018.”
  • Revoked: How Probation and Parole Feed Mass Incarceration in the United States Human Rights Watch & the ACLU, July, 2020“The most common rule violations that trigger incarceration in Wisconsin are using drugs and consuming alcohol or entering bars. In Pennsylvania, state parole violations largely result from people failing to report address changes and using drugs.”
  • Use of Structured Sanctions and Incentives in Probation and Parole Supervision Robina Institute of Criminal Law and Criminal Justice, July, 2020“There is strong evidence that the use of incentives by supervising officers produces improved supervision outcomes for individuals convicted of more serious offenses and people classified as higher risk to reoffend.”
  • Paying on Probation: How Financial Sanctions Intersect with Probation to Target, Trap, and Punish People Who Cannot Pay Criminal Justice Policy Program at Harvard Law School, June, 2020“All but two states have statutes authorizing the imposition of supervision fees on people sentenced to some or all types of supervised probation.75 Most supervision fees are assessed monthly, and can be quite high, ranging from $10 to $150 per month.”
  • Physical Health and Disability Among U.S. Adults Recently on Community Supervision Paywall :( Tyler N. A. Winkelman, Michelle S. Phelps, Kelly Lyn Mitchell, Latasha Jennings, and Rebecca J. Shlafer, April, 2020“Compared to the general population, adults recently on community supervision were significantly more likely to report fair or poor health, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, hepatitis B or C, one or more chronic conditions, and any disability.”
  • Policy Reforms Can Strengthen Community Supervision: A framework to improve probation and parole The Pew Charitable Trusts, April, 2020“This report details the challenges facing community supervision systems around the country and outlines specific policy changes that states can make to achieve improved outcomes.”
  • Hundreds are still jailed for technical parole violations in NYC, which means decarceration is happening far too slowly Prison Policy Initiative, April, 2020“As of April 22nd, there were still 293 people held in NYC jails for technical parole violations:”
  • Racial Inequities in New York Parole Supervision Kendra Bradner and Vincent Schiraldi, March, 2020“Black and Latinx people are significantly more likely than white people to be under supervision, to be jailed pending a violation hearing, and to be incarcerated in New York State prisons for a parole violation.”
  • Technical violations, immigration detainers, and other bad reasons to keep people in jail Prison Policy Initiative, March, 2020“We found that across 10 urban areas, the share of people held at least in part for probation or parole reasons ranged widely, from 6% to 58% of the average daily jail population.”
  • Age-Standardized Mortality of Persons on Probation, in Jail, or in State Prison and the General Population, 2001-2012 Paywall :( Christopher Wildeman, Alyssa W. Goldman, and Emily A. Wang, August, 2019“Persons on probation died at a rate 3.42 times higher than persons in jail, 2.81 times higher than persons in state prison, and 2.10 times higher than the general US population.”
  • Opportunity Costs: Unequal Justice in Alabama's Community Corrections Programs Southern Poverty Law Center, August, 2019“The SPLC's eight-month investigation of community corrections programs in Alabama reveals serious flaws in a "user-funded justice" system that, in many locales, seems to be focused more on raising money than on rehabilitation or public safety.”
  • Confined and Costly: How Supervision Violations Are Filling Prisons and Burdening Budgets Council of State Governments, June, 2019(45% of state prison admissions nationwide are due to violations of probation or parole.)
  • A natural experiment study of the effects of imprisonment on violence in the community Harding et al., May, 2019“Being sentenced to prison had no significant effects on arrests or convictions for violent crimes after release from prison.”
  • Levers of Change In Parole Release And Revocation Robina Institute of Criminal Law and Criminal Justice, May, 2019“Paroling authorities have continued to occupy an influential, but low visibility niche, across the landscape of corrections. Parole boards and the release systems they drive exert a large impact on prison populations that is seldom acknowledged.”
  • New data: Low incomes - but high fees - for people on probation Prison Policy Initiative, April, 2019“Nationwide, two-thirds (66%) of people on probation make less than $20,000 per year.”
  • report thumbnail Failure should not be an option: Grading the parole release systems of all 50 states Prison Policy Initiative, February, 2019“Parole systems should give every incarcerated person ample opportunity to earn release and have a fair, transparent process for deciding whether to grant it.”
  • Red states, blue states: What do these mean for people on parole? Prison Policy Initiative, January, 2019(In 2016, Massachusetts returned almost a quarter of its entire parole population to prison for technical violations, while Texas returned only 1%..)
  • The Wisconsin Community Corrections Story Columbia University Justice Lab, January, 2019“Wisconsin serves as a good example of a place where parole and probation supervision are contributing to a prison population that is highly racially disparate and growing.”
  • report thumbnail Correctional Control 2018: Incarceration and supervision by state Prison Policy Initiative, December, 2018“An estimated 4.5 million adults are under community supervision, nearly twice the number of people who are incarcerated in jails and prisons combined.”
  • report thumbnail Eight Keys to Mercy: How to shorten excessive prison sentences Prison Policy Initiative, November, 2018(This report provides state leaders with eight strategies to shorten overly long prison sentences.)
  • Should prosecutors and survivors have a voice in shortening long sentences? Prison Policy Initiative, October, 2018“Prosecutors are particularly unfit to determine whether individuals they have not seen in years or decades still pose a threat to public safety.”
  • Undue Influence: A Prosecutor's Role in Parole Proceeding R. Michael Cassidy, September, 2018(Prosecutors should ordinarily refrain from personally testifying at parole hearings, and should submit written comments to the parole board only in rare situations.)
  • Modernizing Parole Statutes: Guidance from Evidence-Based Practice Robina Institute of Criminal Law and Criminal Justice, August, 2018(This paper's recommendations serve as a starting place for those interested in modernizing parole laws around three areas: the parole decision-making process, the terms/conditions of supervision, and the administration of the paroling authority itself.)
  • Young Adults and Community Supervision The Need for a Developmentally Appropriate Approach to Probation Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, August, 2018“The purpose of this report is to highlight evidence-based probation practices that improve outcomes, strengthening public safety and changing the life trajectory of young adults who might otherwise spend years in prison.”
  • New York State Parole Board: Failures in Staffing and Performance The Parole Preparation Project and The Release Aging People in Prison Campaign, August, 2018(This report examines the status of the New York State Parole Board, finding that severe staffing shortages, unlawful procedures, and unethical behavior threaten the board's integrity and fail both incarcerated people and the public.)
  • State Medical and Geriatric Parole Laws National Conference of State Legislatures, August, 2018“While the vast majority of states have medical parole laws and a number of states have a geriatric parole law, they are rarely used.”
  • New reports show probation is down, but still a major driver of incarceration Prison Policy Initiative, April, 2018“Probation and parole widen the net of incarceration by keeping people under onerous restrictions and monitoring instead of focusing squarely on reentry assistance.”
  • "Set up to Fail": The Impact of Offender-Funded Private Probation on the Poor Human Rights Watch, February, 2018“This report examines the use and impact of privatized probation services for misdemeanor offenses in four US states, and provides recommendations to protect against the abuses of criminal justice debt.”
  • Too big to succeed: The impact of the growth of community corrections and what should be done about it Columbia University Justice Lab, January, 2018(This report discusses the consequences of the tremendous growth in probation and parole supervision in the United States over the past several decades, and argues that the number of people under supervision needs to be cut in half.)
  • Less is More in New York: An Examination of the Impact of State Parole Violations on Prison and Jail Populations Columbia University Justice Lab, January, 2018(This research brief examines the decline in the number of people in New York's state prisons and local jails, including Rikers Island, and the simultaneous rise in the number of people incarcerated for state parole violations.)
  • Mass Probation and Inequality: Race, Class, and Gender Disparities in Supervision and Revocation Michelle Phelps, 2018“The results suggest that probation supervision contributes to racial disparities in imprisonment, both by diverting more white defendants to probation initially and by revoking black probationers at greater rates.”
  • Parole Revocation in Connecticut: opportunities to reduce incarceration Samuel Jacobs Criminal Justice Clinic, September, 2017(The Connecticut Board of Pardons and Paroles revoked parole and imposed a prison sanction in 100% of the hearings observed by the Samuel Jacobs Criminal Justice Clinic in November of 2015.)
  • Reducing Recidivism: States Deliver Results Council of State Governments Justice Council, June, 2017“This brief from the National Reentry Resource Center profiles seven states in which recidivism has significantly decreased over the last decade according to several different measures.”
  • Delaying a Second Chance: The Declining Prospects for Parole on Life Sentences The Sentencing Project, January, 2017“By placing upward pressure on prison sentences for people with less serious convictions, excessive prison terms for lifers have contributed to a major cause of mass incarceration.”
  • Probation population declines: Good, but not good enough Prison Policy Initiative, December, 2016“o make a real dent in the country's bloated correctional population, policy makers need to advance criminal justice and social policies aimed at reducing the number of people on probation.”
  • The Continuing Leverage of Releasing Authorities: Findings from a National Survey: Executive Summary Robina Institute of Criminal Law and Criminal Justice, October, 2016“Releasing authorities continue to retain significant and unrecognized clout in their decision-making. Their practices and policies impact the achievement of the criminal justice system's fundamental goals: fairness, offender rehabilitation, and safety.”
  • Improving Parole Release in America Edward E. Rhine, Joan Petersilia, and Kevin R. Reitz, January, 2016“This article lays out a ten-point program for the improve-ment of discretionary parole-release systems in America.”
  • Does Prison Crowding Predict Higher Rates of Substance Use Related Parole Violations? A Recurrent Events Multi-Level Survival Analysis PLoS ONE, October, 2015“Prison crowding predicted higher rates of parole violations after release from prison. The effect was magnitude-dependent and particularly strong for drug charges.”
  • Probation: The nicest sounding way to grease the skids of mass incarceration Prison Policy Initiative, August, 2015“More than half the people under correctional control are on probation.”
  • Making Sense of Sentencing State Systems and Policies National Conference of State Legislatures, June, 2015(This report summarizes states' criminal codes and sentencing systems.)
  • Paroling people who committed serious crimes: What is the actual risk? Citizens Alliance on Prisons & Public Spending, December, 2014(People who commit homicides or sex offenses have extremely low re-offense rates. This report argues that parole decisions should take into account this reality & aim to better repare people for release, not incarcerate them needlessly.)
  • Probation and Parole in the United States, 2013 Bureau of Justice Statistics, October, 2014(At yearend 2013, an estimated 4,751,400 adults were under community supervision---a decline of about 29,900 offenders from yearend 2012.)
  • Realignment Report A One-year Examination of Offenders Released from State Prison in the First Six Months of Public Safety Realignment California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, May, 2013“The 1-year arrest/conviction rates of offenders released pre and post-Realignment is similar, but the 1-year return to prison rate was substantially less post-Realignment since most offenders in this cohort were ineligible to return on a parole violation.”
  • Paradox of Probation: Community Supervision in the Age of Mass Incarceration Michelle Phelps, March, 2013(The results suggest that across place and time, probation paradoxically exerts both a prison alternative and net-widener effect, with the two forces often cancelling one another out.)
  • Probation and Parole in the United States, 2011 Bureau of Justice Statistics, November, 2012“At yearend 2011, for the first time since 2002, the U.S. probation population fell below 4 million.”
  • The Impact of CA's Probation Performance Incentive Funding Program Pew Center on the States, February, 2012“In the first year of implementation, the state probation failure rate declined from 7.9 percent during the baseline years of 2006-2008 to 6.1 percent in 2010, a 23 percent reduction in revocations.”
  • Probation And Parole In The United States, 2010 Bureau of Justice Statistics, October, 2011“The state parole population declined by 0.3% during 2010. The number of adults on supervised release in the federal system increased by 4.9%, which contributed to the increase in the U.S. parole population.”
  • Profiting from the Poor A Report on Predatory Probation Companies in Georgia Southern Center for Human Rights, July, 2008“The privatization of misdemeanor probation has placed unprecedented law enforcement authority in the hands of for-profit companies that act essentially as collection agencies.”
  • Probation and Parole in the United States, 2006 Bureau of Justice Statistics, December, 2007“The number of adult men and women in the United States who were being supervised on probation or parole at the end of 2006 reached 5,035,225. In 2006 the combined probation and parole populations grew by 1.8% or 87,852 persons.”
  • New Jersey's Drug Courts, Special Probation and Proposal for Reform The New Jersey Commission to Review Criminal Sentencing, April, 2007“[P]rograms that combine comprehensive treatment, intensive supervision and judicial oversight cost substantially less than prolonged periods of imprisonment... the public benefits not only from the reduction in crime, but also from significant savings...”
  • Probation and Parole in the United States, 2005 Bureau of Justice Statistics, November, 2006“In 2005 the Nation's parole population grew 1.6%. This was an increase of 12,556 parolees during the year.”
  • Probation and Parole in the United States, 2004 Bureau of Justice Statistics, November, 2005
  • Breaking the Barriers for Women on Parole Little Hoover Commission, December, 2004“At the time of their arrest, half of these women were taking care of their children; two-thirds of those women were single parents.”(This report looks at incarceration patterns for women in California and proposes solutions for the problems identified.)
  • The high cost of denying parole: an analysis of prisoners eligible for release Citizens Alliance on Prisons & Public Spending, November, 2003“Although other important factors exist, the single biggest reason for prison growth has been changed parole practices. Far more people who have served their minimum sentences and are, by law, eligible for release, are being denied parole.”
  • Trends in State Parole, 1990-2000 Bureau of Justice Statistics, October, 2001“Forty-two percent of State parole discharges were successful”
  • Probation and Parole in the United States, 2000 Bureau of Justice Statistics, August, 2001“National correctional population reaches new high -- Grows by 117,400 during 2000 to total 6.5 million adults”
  • DWI Offenders under Correctional Supervision Bureau of Justice Statistics, June, 1999“More than 500,000 drunk drivers on probation or incarcerated in 1997”
  • Federal Offenders under Community Supervision, 1987-96 Bureau of Justice Statistics, August, 1998
  • Characteristics of Adults on Probation, 1995 Bureau of Justice Statistics, December, 1997

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