Revoked: How Probation and Parole Feed Mass Incarceration in the United States
Date:  08-12-2020

The Council of State Governments reports 45 percent of all US state prison admissions stemmed from probation and parole violations
From Human Rights Watch and the ACLU:

From the Summary of Revoked:

[Probation is] like a prison sentence outside of jail. You walk around with a rope tied around your leg to the prison door. Anything can lead to revocation. –James Yancey, Georgia defense attorney

I asked for programs but . . . [probation] didn’t want to hear that I need help; they just gave me time. –Monique Taylor (pseudonym), who has served years on probation in Pennsylvania for conduct related to a long-standing drug dependence

Probation, parole, and other forms of supervision are marketed as alternatives to incarceration in the United States. Supervision, it is claimed, will keep people out of prison and help them get back on their feet.

Throughout the past 50 years, the use of probation (a sentence often imposed just after conviction) and parole (served after incarceration) has soared alongside jail and prison populations. As of 2016, the last year for which supervision data is available, 2.2 million people were incarcerated in United States jails and prisons, but more than twice as many, 4.5 million people—or one in every 55—were under supervision. Supervision rates vary vastly by state, from one in every 168 people in New Hampshire, to one in every 18 in Georgia.

Over the past several decades, arbitrary and overly harsh supervision regimes have led people back into US jails and prisons—feeding mass incarceration. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), in the late 1970s, 16 percent of US state and federal prison admissions stemmed from violations of parole and some types of probation. This number climbed to a high of 36 percent in 2008, and, in 2018, the last year for which data is available, was 28 percent. A different set of data for the previous year from the Council of State Governments, which includes all types of probation violations—but is limited to state prison populations—shows that 45 percent of all US state prison admissions stemmed from probation and parole violations. These figures do not include people locked up for supervision violations in jails, for which there is little nationwide data. Black and REVOKED 2 brown people are both disproportionately subjected to supervision and incarcerated for violations. This report documents how and why supervision winds up landing many people in jail and prison—feeding mass incarceration rather than curtailing it. The extent of the problem varies among states, and in recent years multiple jurisdictions have enacted reforms to limit incarceration for supervision violations. This report focuses on three states where our initial research indicated that—despite some reforms—the issue remains particularly acute: Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

Read the full report here.