States Are Moving to Shorten Probation Time

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In Georgia, one in 16 adults is on probation. That’s almost four times the national average. Offenders there spend more than twice as long on probation as in the rest of the U.S., sometimes 20 years or life. Probation officers juggle as many as 400 cases at a time. The state is looking to change that. At the behest of Gov. Nathan Deal, legislators passed a probation reform bill last month. It would shorten probation sentences and reduce the caseloads of probation officers who are spread thin, Stateline reports. Georgia joins several other states that are looking for ways to reduce the time that offenders spend on probation or parole, as they’ve sought to reduce sentences for lesser crimes, and reduce jail and prison overcrowding. The idea is to devote resources to monitoring more dangerous offenders, help offenders re-enter society, and reduce recidivism.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder last month signed bills to minimize punishments for probation violations and allow judges to shorten probation time for good behavior. South Dakota last month enacted a law that allows those convicted of lesser crimes to be discharged from probation after a year for good behavior. Minnesota lawmakers have proposed to reduce probation time for offenses such as misdemeanors and give courts the power to end probation terms early. Oklahoma and Louisiana have bills pending that would cut time offenders spend on probation or parole. Since 2012, Alabama and Hawaii have shortened probation terms. Changing probation laws is popular with fiscal conservatives worried about the rising costs of criminal justice and advocates concerned that too many people are locked up.  “I see this as a good thing. Shorter terms and fewer conditions for probation allow people to become more productive citizens,” said Marcus Hodges of the National Association of Probation Executives.

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