More Work to Do: Analysis of Probation and Parole in the United States, 2017-2018

Bradner, Kendra; Schiraldi, Vincent N.; Mejia, Natasha; Lopoo, Evangeline

This research brief offers an initial analysis of newly-released data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), which report on the number of people under probation and parole supervision in 2017 and 2018. This brief seeks to put the data into the context of historical and international community supervision trends and to examine supervision rates through a racial equity lens.

Key findings from the BJS report include that the number and percentage of people under community supervision has declined for the 10th year in a row (Kaeble and Alper 2020). This amounts to a 2% decrease between 2017 and 2018 and a 14% decrease from 2008 to 2018.

Our analysis reveals that, while this does mark an observable decline in the number of people under community supervision, the United States continues to maintain high rates of community supervision compared to historic rates, as well as compared to European rates. Further, community supervision is still marked by significant racial disparities and “mass supervision” continues to be a major contributor to mass incarceration. Finally, 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.

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Justice Lab
Social Work
Justice Lab at Columbia University
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November 2, 2020