Around 280,000 people are in prison for violating a condition of probation or parole on any given day according to research from the Council of State Governments Justice Center (CSGJC). This is nearly 25% of the total prison population in the 50 states and Washington, D.C. Nationwide, 45% of prison admissions are the result of violations of probation or parole. In 20 states, supervision violations make up more than half of prison admissions. See Figure 1.
These revocations are expensive, both due to the cost of supervision that results in reincarceration as well as the cost of prisons. Corrections costs made up 5.2% of state general funds in 2019. CSGJC found that the cost of incarceration for supervision violations was $9.3 billion annually, with $2.8 billion going toward incarceration for technical violations.
For this reason, policymakers and advocates have been exploring ways to limit supervision’s role as a driver of incarceration. One primary way to achieve that through policy reform is to enact laws that limit the use of incarceration as a response to a violation of supervision, particularly technical violations (defined below).
This primer explores state laws that limit the use of incarceration in response to a technical violation of supervision. These limits can reduce prison populations and the associated costs to the state and can help achieve better outcomes for people under supervision and better processes for the officers tasked with overseeing that supervision.