Community supervision, encompassing probation and parole, is a perennial topic of interest for state legislatures. In 2021, 33 states passed 85 bills addressing community supervision. The following are some of the significant enactments from 2021. All of the included legislation can be located in NCSL’s Community Supervision Significant Enactment Database.
Length of Supervision
Thirteen states passed 20 bills addressing the amount of time an individual spends under supervision.
States addressed the length of supervision by providing opportunities to shorten the term through credits similar to earned and good time in prison. Legislation in California, AB 644, makes a person on parole who participates in the state’s MAT Re-Entry Incentive Program eligible for a 30-day reduction for every six months of treatment. Georgia’s SB 105 allows for the termination of probation at a “behavioral incentive date” if the person under supervision has paid all restitution, not had probation revoked in the prior 24 months and has not been arrested for anything other than a nonserious traffic offense.
SB 1144 in New York touched many aspects of parole such as expanding earned time credits for complying with parole conditions, allowing for 30 days of credit for every 30 days of compliance with the conditions and making changes to violations discussed below. Texas’ HB 385 allows an individual to earn 30 days of credit for completion of an approved faith-based, volunteer or community-based program.
States capped maximum term length and limited when a term can be extended. Virginia’s HB 2038 limited probation sentences to a maximum of one year for a misdemeanor and five years for a felony.
In SB 45, Vermont made discharge of probation presumptive midway through the supervision term if the person on probation meets certain criteria and provided additional opportunities for discharge or term reduction for people who are not approved for discharge at the midpoint of their probation term.
Community Supervision Violations
Another area of state interest in 2021 was community supervision violations, including what constitutes a violation and how to respond. Fourteen states passed 21 bills. Learn more about state laws addressing responding to violations with alternatives to incarceration here and explore the budgetary impacts of reducing revocations of community supervision for rule violations here.
Arkansas SB 311 made a number of changes related to violations. The legislation specified that an individual under supervision “absenting” themselves from supervision for six months or more is a serious conditions violation and for less than six months is a technical conditions violation. The new law reduces the cap on incarceration for individuals on parole from 180 days to 120 days for intermediate sanctions but specifies that if a person accumulates more than 240 days of incarceration, a parole officer must recommend a violation. Also, for individuals on parole, it reduces the cap on incarceration from 90 to 60 days for a technical conditions violation and from 180 days to 120 days for a serious conditions violation.
Similarly, in HB 784 and HB 785, Tennessee limited incarceration for technical violations of probation and parole: 15 days for the first revocation; 30 days for the second revocation; 90 days for the third revocation; or up to the remainder of the sentence for a fourth or subsequent revocation.
Maine limited the ability to use incarceration as a response to technical violations in HB 626.
Further, New York’s SB 1144 (discussed above) establishes procedural protections for individuals accused of parole violations, restricts the use of detention prior to adjudication and prohibits incarceration for most technical violations.
HB 524 and HB 871 in Puerto Rico specified that the use of medical cannabis does not constitute a probation violation.
Conditions of Supervision
Legislation on conditions of supervision was enacted in 12 states in 2021, encompassing a total of 17 bills. Learn more about conditions and how state laws tailor conditions to an individual in this legislative primer.
Alabama’s HB 2 requires the pardon and parole board to determine the supervision level for an individual based on the results of a validated risk and needs assessment.
SB 651 in Oregon requires a supervision officer to provide notice to an individual on probation of their right to file an objection and have a hearing if the officer proposes a modification to special conditions of probation.
Pennsylvania’s SB 411 allows the probation and parole board to establish special conditions of supervision for parole that are based on the risk and needs of the individual. Additionally, the legislation permits the board to create general conditions of supervision for everyone under parole, including required drug testing for individuals convicted of a drug-related crime.
Vermont established a pilot project in HB 20 that will provide the court with a report prior to sentencing for felony probation. The report is designed to assist the court in setting conditions and includes information on the individual's risk and needs assessment results, mental health and substance use disorder screening results and criminal history.
Four states took action in 2021 on supervision fees, passing five bills.
Two bills in Louisiana touched on fines and fees: HB 248 decreased the dollar amount of probation and parole fees for people on unsupervised or inactive supervision status. The new law further specifies that when the court places a person on unsupervised probation, it must order, as a condition of probation, a monthly fee of not more than $1. Additionally, HB 288 states that outstanding financial obligations are forgiven if a person makes consistent monthly payments for 12 months or for half of their supervision term. That legislation further requires the court to determine a person's ability to pay financial obligations imposed and allows the court to waive, modify, or create a payment plan for financial obligations.
HB 385 in Texas similarly requires consideration by a court of an individual's ability to pay fees, fines, reimbursement costs, court costs and other costs and payments.
Oregon repealed in SB 620 a requirement that a person under supervision must pay supervision fees.
Eligibility for Supervision
States took action on eligibility for community supervision, with 11 states passing 18 bills. Arizona’s HB 2130 makes a person who is deemed to be high risk and high need eligible for intensive probation. Probation eligibility is expanded for some nonviolent drug offenses in California’s SB 73.
Administration of Supervision
The topic of supervision administration consistently receives significant legislative interest, including changes to the makeup of parole boards and management of supervision. In 2021, there were 37 bills passed in 22 states addressing supervision administration.
Arizona’s HB 2893 created a probation success incentive grant. The amount of a county’s grant is based on the number of people on probation who were not sent to prison compared to an established baseline in the county. Funds from the grant must be used to improve supervision and rehabilitative services. Possible uses set by the legislation include implementing and expanding evidence-based practices for risk and needs assessments for individual programming, implementing and expanding intermediate sanctions, expanding the availability of evidence-based practices for rehabilitation programs, evaluating the effectiveness of rehabilitation and supervision programs and ensuring program fidelity.
Legislation in Kansas, HB 2077, required the criminal justice reform commission to discuss and develop recommendations for possible legislation that would establish research-based standards and practices for supervision programs that provide incentives for early discharge from supervision for compliance, create standardized terms and conditions, and create standardized responses to behavior through incentives and graduated sanctions.
The state also passed legislation (HB 2121) requiring the corrections secretary to develop guidance for supervision officers to include responses for behavior that would constitute a violation and incentive responses for compliant behavior and pro-social achievements.
Legislation in Nevada, AB 342, requires the parole board to review, at least once every five years, the standards for granting and revoking parole. Utah’s HB 44 requires the State Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice to make an annual progress report to the Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee on a number of topics, including the Justice Reinvestment Initiative's goal of strengthening probation and parole supervision.