Probation and parole programs in New Jersey and around the country are designed to reduce prison populations and help offenders to get their lives back on track, but a recently released report from the Council of State Governments suggests that supervised release fails almost as often as it succeeds. The Kentucky-based nonprofit organization’s Justice Center gathered parole and probation data from all 50 states, and its researchers found that nearly half of the people sent to state prisons each year are jailed for violating the conditions of their supervised release.
The CSG report also reveals that incarcerating people for parole or probation violations costs states $9.3 billion each year, and almost a third of this money is spent sending people to jail for minor technical violations such as missing an appointment or not showing up for a drug test. In New Jersey, 27% of the individuals sent to state prison each year are incarcerated for supervised release violations. They make up 14% of the state prison population.
Advocates for criminal justice reform are unlikely to be surprised by these figures as they have long claimed that offenders granted probation or parole are often set up to fail. One of the most contentious conditions of supervised release prohibits contact with individuals who have a criminal record. Advocates say that this is virtually impossible in many poor communities. Those on probation or parole may also commit technical violations because they do not have reliable vehicles and live in areas poorly served by public transportation.
Experienced criminal defense attorneys may be aware of the difficulties faced by offenders who are granted parole or probation, and they may urge prosecutors to bear these challenges in mind when they make supervised release recommendations to judges. Attorneys may also advocate in court on behalf of individuals who are accused of violating the conditions of their probation or parole.