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Probation and Parole in the United States, 2010

ADVANCE FOR RELEASE AT 10:00 A.M. EST Bureau of Justice Statistics
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 21, 2011            Contact: Kara McCarthy (202) 307-1241
HTTP://WWW.BJS.GOV/ After hours: (202) 598-0556


Rates of completion up for parolees and probationers since 2006

WASHINGTON – The number of adult offenders under community supervision on probation or on parole declined by 1.3 percent during 2010, dropping to about 4.9 million adults at yearend, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) announced today. This marked the second consecutive year of decline in the number of adults under community supervision.  

Probation is a court-ordered period of correctional supervision in the community, generally as an alternative to incarceration. Parole is a period of conditional supervised release in the community following a prison term. At yearend 2010, about 1 in every 48 adults in the U.S. was on probation or parole, a rate lower than the 1 in every 46 that was observed in 2000.

The number of adult probationers declined (down 1.7 percent) for the second consecutive year, dropping to nearly 4.1 million probationers at yearend 2010. The entire decline in the community supervision population was attributable to the decrease in the probation population since probationers make up 83 percent of adults under community supervision.

During 2010, the number of adults on parole or other post-prison supervision increased slightly (up 0.3 percent), reaching about 840,700 parolees at yearend. The state parole population (down 0.3 percent) declined for the second consecutive year while the number of adult offenders on supervised release following a prison term in the federal system increased by 4.9 percent during 2010.

The number of offenders who entered parole supervision (565,300) during 2010 exceeded the number discharged from parole (562,500), contributing to the increase in the parole population. Discharges from parole declined 1.8 percent and entries onto parole declined 0.5 percent during the year.  

The failure rate of parolees—defined as the percentage of parolees who were returned to incarceration at some point during the year—decreased over the decade. During 2010, about 13 percent of parolees were reincarcerated at some time during the year, down from about 16 percent during 2000. About 5.7 percent of probationers were incarcerated at some point during 2010, nearly unchanged since 2000 (5.5 percent).

The completion rate for offenders on parole continued to increase since 2006. Slightly more than half of parolees (52 percent) who were discharged from parole during 2010 completed their terms of supervision or were discharged early, a rate higher than the 45 percent observed in 2006.

For the second consecutive year, the number of offenders discharged from probation supervision (about 2.3 million) exceeded the number who entered probation (about 2.2 million) during 2010, contributing to the decrease in the probation population. About 65 percent of probationers who were discharged during the year completed their terms of supervision or were discharged early, the same percentage as in 2009. This was still higher than the 58 percent who completed probation in 2006.

Thirty-three states reported declines in their probation population during 2010. California (down 18,854) and Florida (down 11,228) accounted for almost a third of the decrease in probationers. Nineteen jurisdictions—including the District of Columbia and the federal system—reported increases in their probation population, led by Pennsylvania (up 7,968), Alabama (up 3,312), and Georgia (up 3,273).

In 2010, 19 states reported declines in their parole population.  In 31 states and the District of Columbia, the parole population increase. Louisiana (up 2,595), Kentucky (up 2,027), Georgia (up 1,382), and Mississippi (up 1,008) accounted for more than half of the total increase in parolees.

The race, gender and offense characteristics among probationers and parolees remained relatively unchanged during the year. At yearend 2010—

  1. The majority of probationers (76 percent) and parolees (88 percent) were male.
  2. Most probationers (55 percent) and parolees (42 percent) were white, while a smaller portion of probationers (30 percent) and parolees (39 percent) were black.
  3. Most probationers were supervised for a property (28 percent) or drug offense (26 percent).
  4. More than a third of parolees were drug offenders (35 percent) and a quarter were property offenders (24 percent). 
  5. About 19 percent of probationers and 27 percent of parolees were supervised for a violent offense.

The report, Probation and Parole in the United States, 2010 (NCJ 236019), was written by BJS statisticians Lauren Glaze and Thomas P. Bonczar. Following publication, the report can be found at http://www.bjs.gov.

For additional information about the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ statistical reports and programs, please visit the BJS website at http://www.bjs.gov/.

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The Office of Justice Programs (OJP), headed by Assistant Attorney General Laurie O. Robinson, provides federal leadership in developing the nation’s capacity to prevent and control crime, administer justice, and assist victims. OJP has six components: the Bureau of Justice Assistance; the Bureau of Justice Statistics; the National Institute of Justice; the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention; the Office for Victims of Crime; and the Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking. More information about OJP can be found at http://www.ojp.gov.

Date Published: November 21, 2011