WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Laura and John Arnold Foundation (LJAF) today announced a major new initiative to make community supervision fairer and more effective. With more than one in 55 adults currently on probation or parole nationwide, there has never been a more important time to examine supervision policies, advance reforms to safely reduce correctional control and incarceration, and improve outcomes for individuals and communities.
While the number of people on probation and parole has more than tripled over the past three decades, community supervision has remained largely understudied. Significant work is needed to bring policy and practice in line with the research on what works to reduce recidivism.
As part of this new work, LJAF is collaborating with the Pew Charitable Trusts to make major investments in research, policy reform, advocacy, and other strategies to improve public safety and supervision outcomes. A brief released today, prepared by LJAF and Pew, reveals that although probation and parole systems were intended as alternatives to incarceration, only half the people under supervision exit successfully — for the other half, failure often leads to jail or prison.
“Probation and parole failures contribute to exceptionally high incarceration populations, increased taxpayer burdens, and decreased public safety,” said Kelli Rhee, President and CEO of LJAF. “If we can reform these systems so they better position people for success — providing access to mental health and substance use disorder treatment, for example — we will make an enormous impact on the justice system and individual lives.”
Experts at Pew found that a significant number of prison admissions are due to revocations of supervision, which can include technical violations of the rules (e.g., submitting faulty paperwork, missing an appointment, or failing one drug test) rather than new crimes.
“Community supervision should be an opportunity for people to turn their lives around,” said LJAF Vice President of Criminal Justice Amy Solomon. “The reality is that supervision has become a gateway to incarceration. There has never been a more important time to advance evidence-based reforms that will improve outcomes for the people on supervision and produce better public safety results for our communities.”
Pew and LJAF have assembled a national advisory group to guide the development of model policies to strengthen community supervision and deliver better public safety results. Beginning in 2019, Pew will assist a small handful of states with strong leadership and a commitment to data-driven reform to identify policies and practices that can reduce recidivism and improve public safety.
“Research has shown that it is possible to have less crime and less correctional control,” said Pew’s Public Safety Performance Project Director Jake Horowitz. “Community supervision agencies across the country may need a nudge, but they are well positioned to implement reforms that will safely reduce incarceration and increase the number of people who are successful on supervision.”
To spur new research and policy innovations and help shift the focus of community supervision from catching failure to preventing crime and promoting success, LJAF has released two Requests for Proposals: Request for Proposals to Promote Success in Community Supervision and Reducing Revocations Challenge: Identifying a Research Intermediary to Support Action Research in 10 Jurisdictions.
LJAF is also supporting research partners at the Council of State Governments Justice Center to develop a 50-state snapshot of probation and parole revocations to prison; the Urban Institute and Crime and Justice Institute to assess state reforms currently underway; and the University of Minnesota’s Robina Institute of Criminal Law and Criminal Justice to help draft a research-based model policy framework.