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Probation and Parole Performance Funding

Parole and probation are supposed to offer structured, low-cost supervision of former inmates leading law-abiding lives outside prison walls. Given that 95% of incarcerated individuals will return to society, public safety depends on getting parole and probation right.

However, like many government institutions, bureaucratic systems resistant to change make it difficult for officers to succeed. By directing state funding to those closest to the ground when they implement effective methods to increase successful parole and probation completion, states can lower crime and support these law enforcement officers.

The costs of the supervision systems’ failures are high—both in taxpayer dollars and public safety. In a typical year, people failing probation and parole make up 45 percent of admissions to prison nationwide, costing taxpayers over $9 billion per year.

The system does not have to work this way. Policies that reallocate state funding to incentivize innovation, local experimentation, and higher performance can help states jumpstart sluggish parole and probation completion rates.

Unlike most reforms, which spend state dollars based on promised results, prescribe specific programs, or push dangerous offenders out of the system, a reform that only rewards parole and probation departments with additional funding if they reduce revocation rates is a true pay-for-performance model. Once funding is tied to increased public safety, local offices will have an incentive to get more people to complete their supervision sentences successfully, which in turn improves public safety in our communities.

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