Winnable criminal-justice reforms in 2022
Eliminate re-incarceration and the use of jail sanctions for technical violations of probation or parole rules
Problem: Technical violations are behaviors that break parole rules that would not count as “crimes” for someone not under community supervision, such as missing curfew or a check-in meeting, maintaining employment, avoiding association with people who have conviction histories, and failing a drug test. In 20 states, more people are admitted to prison for technical violations than for new crimes. Incarcerating people for “technical violations” of probation and parole conditions—whether in jail for a so-called “quick dip” or “flash incarceration” or in prison—is a common but harmful and disproportionate response to minor rule violations. These unnecessary incarcerations make it harder for people under supervision to succeed and lead to higher correction costs.
Solutions: States should limit incarceration as a response to supervision violations to only when the violation has resulted in a new criminal conviction and poses a direct threat to public safety. If incarceration is used to respond to technical violations, the length of time served should be limited and proportionate to the harm caused by the non-criminal rule violation.
Legislation: New York S 1144A (2021) restricts incarceration for technical violations of parole; Massachusetts H 1798/S 1600 (2021) would reduce reincarceration for technical violations or parole; and Michigan S 1050 (2020) restricts the amount of time a person can be incarcerated for technical violations of probation.
More information: The Council of State Governments’ report Confined and Costly, csgjusticecenter.org/publications/confined-costly, shows how many people are admitted and incarcerated for technical violations in your state’s prisons. See also the Pew Charitable Trusts’ report To Safely Cut Incarceration, States Rethink Responses to Supervision Violations, pewtrusts.org/-/media/assets/2019/07/pspp_states_target_technical_violations_v1.pdf.