Over the past 25 years, community corrections (probation and parole) caseloads have grown exponentially, exceeding 5 million people at their peak, double the number of people in prison and jail in America. Designed originally as an alternative to incarceration, community corrections has become a significant contributor to mass incarceration with nearly as many people entering prison for violations of community corrections conditions as for new offenses.
Due to this high volume, public resources for community corrections have been stretched, fostering large caseloads and inadequate programming and, in some cases, forcing community corrections agencies to rely on fees from impoverished clients for their very existence.
Fortunately, increasingly sophisticated research has shown that we can responsibly reduce probation and parole populations. Research shows that people on community corrections can be incentivized by earning time off of probation for exemplary behavior such as securing a job, stable housing, or earning a degree; that supervising people who present a low risk of rearrest increases recidivism; and that the impact of supervision wanes after a few years.