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New York, New York – Today, Arnold Ventures and the CUNY Institute for State and Local Governance (ISLG) announced the release of action research reports from the 10 jurisdictions selected to participate in the Reducing Revocations Challenge: Cook County, IL; Denver, CO; Harris County, TX; Monroe County; IN; Niagara County, NY; Pima County, AZ; Pulaski County, AK; Ramsey County, MN; Santa Cruz County, CA; and Spokane, WA. The Challenge is a national initiative dedicated to transforming probation supervision to improve client outcomes and reduce unnecessary incarceration. The Challenge was launched in response to the growing recognition that revocations from supervision are a major contributor to mass incarceration, responsible for almost half of state prison admissions nationwide, and reform is urgently needed.

The first phase of the Challenge supported action research in each of the 10 jurisdictions to better understand the local drivers of revocations and how they can be prevented, with the goal of informing specific policy and practice interventions. The research was conducted by action research teams (ARTs) comprised of a research organization and a local probation agency. ARTs used multiple methods to hone in on potential drivers of revocations, including exploring electronic data collected by the agencies, reviewing individual case files, and conducting stakeholder and client interviews. This approach allowed them to dive deep into local policy and practice and explore the impact of a wide range of factors that affect who gets violated and/or revoked and why, including supervision conditions and parameters, perceived risk, and the nature of the noncompliance. ARTs also explored client characteristics that are more likely to be associated with violations and/or revocations, including those related to gender, race, and ethnicity.

Key findings across sites included the following:

  • Technical acts of noncompliance with probation such as failed drug tests and missed appointments with probation officers account for a substantial proportion of violations filed, representing as many as two-thirds of filings in some jurisdictions.
  • Despite accounting for fewer violations, filings involving new crimes are more likely to result in revocation in most sites.
  • Risk is an important driver of both violations and revocations, both from the standpoint of assigned risk level and the perceived risk to public safety associated with particular acts of noncompliance.

Findings from the reports are being used to develop targeted solutions that aim to improve success on probation and/or reduce the broader footprint of supervision by addressing the key drivers uncovered. A subset of ARTs will be provided with additional funding to implement their solutions in a second phase of the Challenge scheduled to begin later this year. In the coming months ISLG will also release a brief summarizing key themes and policy and practice implications from the research across sites.

“Probation revocations are a significant driver of mass incarceration,” said Jeremy Travis, Executive Vice President of Criminal Justice at Arnold Ventures. “Thanks to the Reducing Revocations Challenge, we are learning the most effective means of reducing probation failures and we are deepening our understanding by engaging directly with the people who are doing this work. We look forward to building upon the research-based findings from these sites and applying what they have learned to substantially reduce probation revocations across the country.”

“Given that many prison admissions are the result of technical violations of probation and parole—violations that do not put public safety at risk—the Reducing Revocations Challenge and these 10 jurisdictions are taking important steps toward reducing mass incarceration,” said Michael Jacobson, Executive Director of ISLG and former Commissioner of the New York City Department of Probation. “Their leadership in transforming their own probation systems is also paving the way for other cities and localities across the country to do the same.”

“One in 55 people are under community supervision—probation and parole—nationwide. We commend these sites for being trailblazers in making significant, data-informed reforms to their community supervision systems and making important inroads to dramatically reducing mass incarceration and improving public safety,” said Veronica Cunningham, Executive Director of the American Probation and Parole Association and former Chief of Cook County Adult Probation and Director of Texas State Parole.

“We applaud these 10 sites not only for honestly and critically examining their own policies and practices, but for being willing to make tailored policy changes and adaptations based on that research to significantly improve probation and ultimately public safety,” said Ebony Ruhland, Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice at the University of Cincinnati and former Research Director at the Robina Institute of Criminal Law and Criminal Justice.

Read more information about the Challenge and read the reports.

About the CUNY Institute for State and Local Governance

The CUNY Institute for State and Local Governance (ISLG) is a good governance think-and-do tank. ISLG is driven by the idea that data-informed approaches can measurably improve the way government and public institutions operate, equitably serve all constituents, and ultimately solve social policy problems. It also provides the knowledge and action needed to fuel those approaches. With the necessary research, policies, partnerships, and infrastructures, ISLG helps government and public institutions work more effectively, efficiently, and in the interest of all communities.

About Arnold Ventures

Arnold Ventures is a philanthropy dedicated to tackling some of the most pressing problems in the United States. Driven by a mission to maximize opportunity and minimize injustice, it invests in sustainable change, building it from the ground up based on research, deep thinking, and a strong foundation of evidence. Arnold Ventures is headquartered in Houston, with offices in Washington, D.C., and New York City.

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