Adults Under Correctional Supervision Continue to Decline: BJS

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The number of adults under correctional supervision, including those on probation or parole, decreased from 2018 to 2019, according to two reports released by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS).

The first report, which presents general trends among U.S. correctional populations from 2009 to 2019, identifies a drop of 65,200 people under correctional supervision between 2018 and 2019. The second, which summarizes probation and parole statistics between 2000 and 2019, illustrates that the number of adults on probation or parole decreased by 0.9 percent from 2018 to 2019.

The reports’ findings are consistent with yearly consecutive declines in adult correctional system populations. Since 2009, the correctional population has decreased by 12.4 percent, with an annual reduction of 1.3 percent.

The end of 2019 saw the lowest rate of U.S. adult residents under correctional supervision since 1991, with the largest decreases in community supervision and incarcerated populations throughout 2019.

The only correctional population that increased between 2009 and 2019 was the U.S. parole population, which grew by 6.6 percent. But in recent years — between 2018 and 2019 — the total number of adults on probation or parole decreased by about 41,300 offenders.

Rates aren’t uniform across the country, though: in 2019, the probation population increased in 22 states and declined in 27 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. federal system.

Breaking down the statistics further, the BJS report found that the adult parole population remained relatively stable between 2018 and 2019, increasing by 0.1 percent. The adult probation population declined by 1.3 percent during the same period, and in 2019 probation exits outpaced entries for the eleventh consecutive year.

The first report summarizes data from several BJS collections on populations supervised by adult correctional systems in the U.S. The second draws on data from BJS’s Annual Probation Survey, Annual Parole Survey and Federal Justice Statistics Program.

Both reports, while statistically comprehensive, cover a relatively recent time period. In reality, the prison population has increased by 500 percent over the last 40 years, with over two million people in the nation’s prisons and jails, The Sentencing Project reports.

Additionally, the population of people serving life sentences has nearly quintupled since 1984.

Advocates say parole and probation reform could accelerate the recent declines in the number of people under correctional supervision.

Two bills introduced in New York present a path toward reform.

The first, the Elder Parole bill, would give incarcerated individuals who are over 55 and have served 15 years in prison the opportunity to go before a parole board. The second, the Fair and Timely Parole bill, would change the standards of parole, centering release on a person’s rehabilitation while in prison, not on the original crime.

In New York, the number of probationers declined by 11.1 percent over the course of 2019, according to the BJS report.

Both reports are available online.

To access “Correctional Populations in the United States, 2019 – Statistical Tables,” click here.

To access “Probation and Parole in the United States, 2019,” click here.

Eva Herscowitz is a TCR Justice Reporting intern.

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