Probation and Parole Violations:  State Responses

Probation and Parole Violations Cover PictureNovember 2008

Offenders sent to prison for probation and parole violations contribute substantially to state prison populations. Thirty-five percent of all state prison admissions in 2006 were offenders returned to incarceration as a result of violating conditions of parole, not for new convictions, according to a Department of Justice report. California led the nation; nearly two-thirds of its prison admissions attributed to parole violations. Another 2006 Department of Justice report notes that 9 percent of all offenders who exited probation supervision were incarcerated in state or local facilities due to rule violations. These admissions contribute to the increasing costs of corrections.

Although some violators must be returned to prison to protect public safety, a growing number of states are exploring options to manage these offenders in the community. State responses to offenders who violate conditions of their probation or parole—also known as technical violators—are governed by various policies or laws, including agency policy, administrative code, or statutory law.

This report examines the strategies state lawmakers have used to hold offenders accountable for breaking the rules of their supervision and to maintain public safety, while preserving expensive prison beds for more dangerous criminals.

This report was prepared under a partnership of NCSL’s Criminal Justice Programs and the Public Safety Performance Project of the Pew Center on the States.

For more information on this topic, please contact Alison Lawrence, 303-364-7700 or